The RHSV is very pleased to announce our second Historian-in-Residence, Dr Fiona Gatt, who has begun work on her project: The forgotten class? Shopkeepers of nineteenth-century Melbourne. Fiona explains: ‘Shopkeepers were important agents in the effective functioning of nineteenth-century Melbourne society. Yet the realities of that role in the community remain considerably under-researched. This project will illuminate the role of shopkeepers in nineteenth-century urban Melbourne, and it will prompt a question not adequately engaged with as yet: are they in fact the forgotten class of Australian history? An investigation of three diverse suburbs – genteel Malvern, inner urban North Melbourne and industrial Footscray – will provide a genuine comparative cross-section of the urban retail trade in this period, including the prominence of women proprietors, business longevity, changes in business types, and the spread of shops spatially in these areas. By comparing quantitative and qualitative evidence about the place of shopkeepers in these suburbs of Melbourne, this project will provide new insight into the development and experience of nineteenth-century retailing from both sides of the counter.’

Fiona will write an article for the Victorian Historical Journal and present at an RHSV event in 2024. She also hopes to present findings specific to the suburbs in the study at their local historical societies. She welcomes contact from any RHSV member who has resources or insights to share (

Dr Fiona Gatt is a casual academic and works on public history, including the ‘Our Land Your Law’ project at the Old Melbourne Goal for National Trust (Victoria). She is co-editor of the Journal of Australian Studies and Pharos, the PHA’s newsletter. She has a leadership role in the New Housing Histories Network. Fiona has published on the long view of the Great War (Victorian Historical Journal) and on memory, childhood and self-indigenization (Postcolonial Studies). She completed her PhD thesis titled The lived experience of urbanisation in Hotham/North Melbourne 1852–1905 in 2023.

Image Caption: W. Paterson, Butcher, Victoria Street, North Melbourne [image], c. 1890, Heritage Collection, City of Melbourne Libraries, 755779