Government emblems, embodied discourse and ideology: an artefact-led history of governance in Victoria, Australia


Hepworth, Katherine

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Government emblems are a rich source of historical information. This thesis examines the evidence of past governance discourses embodied in government emblems. Embodied discourses are found within an archive of 282 emblems used by local governments in Victoria, Australia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They form the basis of a history of governance in the State of Victoria from first British exploration in 1803 to the present day. This history of governance was written to test the main contribution of this thesis: a new graphic design history method called discursive method. This new method facilitates collecting an archive of artefacts, identifying discourses embodied within those artefacts, and forming a historical narrative of broader societal discourses and ideologies surrounding their use. A strength of discursive method, relative to other design history methods, is that it allows the historian to seriously investigate how artefacts relate to the power networks in which they are enmeshed. Discursive method can theoretically be applied to any artefacts, although government emblems were chosen for this study precisely because they are difficult to study, and rarely studied, within existing methodological frameworks. This thesis demonstrates that even the least glamorous of graphic design history artefacts can be the source of compelling historical narratives.

Publication year


Thesis supervisor

D. J. Huppatz

Publication type

Thesis (PhD)


Copyright © 2012 Katherine Hepworth.

Thesis note

A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Swinburne University of Technology, 2012.