Dr Michael Williams

Profile photo of Dr Michael Williams on a black background with some Chinese writing in gold partly visible.Michael Williams is an historian of the Chinese Diaspora and is a founding member of the Chinese Australian Historical Society. His dissertation at the University of Hong Kong employed oral history and archival research to examine the links of the villages of the Pearl River Delta with the Pacific Ports of Sydney, Hawaii and San Francisco. His current research involves a history of popular perceptions of the Dictation Test, a comparative study of Australia's pre-1949 Chinese-Australian history with its post-1949 history, and a project entitled "Chinese-Australian History in 88 objects".


Doctor of Philosophy, 2002, University of Hong Kong, (Thesis: Destination Qiaoxiang - Pearl River Delta Villages & Pacific Ports, 1849-1949)

Master of Letters, 1998, University of New England, Sydney (Thesis: Sojourn in Your Native Land – Sydney's huaqiao and their links with South China)

Bachelor of Arts, 1996, University of New England, Sydney

Areas of Research

Michael has had a life-long and wide ranging interest in history. In addition to his research of Chinese-Australian migration history and his in-depth study into the history of the NSW town of Dungog, Michael has also done a number of histories for heritage and archaeological assessments. His published books include a unique social history of a 100 year old cinema. In addition, he is currently working on the role of websites in researching, writing and presenting history. Forthcoming in late 2016 is his Returning home with glory, to be published by the University of Hong Kong Press.

Grants/Current Projects

Michael is currently working with Dr Denis Byrne of the Institute for Culture and Society on a Heritage Corridors project. The corridor in question being that between Australia and the south Chinese district of Zhongshan.

Chinese-Australian history in 88 objects is a web-based project which aims to enhance the access of non-academic to the many aspects of Chinese-Australian history that go beyond gold-miners and White Australia policies.

Selected Publications


Williams, M 2018, Returning home with glory: Chinese villagers around the Pacific, 1849 to 1949 (opens in a new window) (榮歸故里:太平洋地區的中國僑鄉1849–1949), Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong.

Williams, M 2014, McCrossin's Mill Museum Chinese Collection - a history of the Chinese on the Rocky River, Uralla Historical Society.

Williams, M 2012, Entertaining Dungog – more than a picture palace, Friends of the James Theatre.

Williams, M 2011, Ah Dungog – a brief survey of its charming houses and historic buildings, Dungog Historical Society.

Book Chapters

Williams, M (forthcoming), 'Women of the gold mountain', in, Mobile lives: histories of Chinese women in the Asia-Pacific, Routledge.

Williams, M 2004, 'Would not this help your Federation?', in J Fitzgerald (ed.), After the rush, Otherland Literary Journal, Melbourne, pp. 35-50.


Williams, M 2004, 'Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta Qiaoxiang', Modern Asian Studies, vol. 38, part 2, pp. 257-282.

Williams, M 2003, 'In the Tang Mountains we have a Big House', East Asian History, vol. 25/26, June/December, pp. 85-112.

Williams, M 2003, 'Chinese Australia – the view from the village', Locality, Autumn, pp. 17-22.

Williams, M 2003, 'Anglo-Saxonizing machines: Exclusion America, White Australia', Chinese America – History and Perspectives, vol. 17, pp. 23-33.

Williams, M 2000, 'Observations of a China Consul', Locality, vol. 11, no.2, pp. 24-31.

Williams, M 1999, 'Sojourn in your native land: Sydney links with South China', Queensland Review, vol. 6, no. 2, November, pp. 11-23.

Williams, M 1999, Chinese settlement in NSW – a thematic history, Heritage Office of NSW (opens in a new window), Sydney.

Commissioned Works

Williams, M 2012, A history in three rivers, Dungog Shire Heritage Study, Carste Studio Heritage Consultants, Dungog Shire Council

Williams, M 2011, 100th anniversary of the Maitland to Dungog Railway 1911 to 2011, Dungog Historical Society


'By the pleasing countenance of my superiors – the life of Dungog Magistrate Thomas Cook, J.P.', History in the Williams River Valley, 2012.

'This anomalous community', History in the Williams River Valley, 2012.

State records NSW: sources for the history of the Chinese in regional NSW (opens in a new window), Golden Threads, 2000.

'Chinese language considerations' (opens in a new window), Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation, 2001.

Guide for tracing a Chinese ancestor: using Australian Archives (NSW) files of the Immigration (Restriction) Act (opens in a new window), Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation, 2001.

'Wading 10,000 li to seek their fortune: Tung Wah News selections 1898-1901' (opens in a new window), Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation, Melbourne, 2002.

Book Reviews

Williams, M 2000, review of If they don't bring their women here by George Peffer, in Australiasian Journal of American Studies.

Williams, M 2000, review of 'Many inventions': the Chinese in the Rocks, Sydney 1890-1930 by Jane Lydon, in Labour History.


Williams, M, 'Chinese-Australian History in 88 Objects', Chinese Women's Association, Sydney, 13 February 2016.

Williams, M, 'Heads-I-win-tails-you-lose – the test it was a criminal offense to fail', Dragon Tails Conference, Cairns, Queensland, 2-5 July 2015.

Williams, M, 'Impact of overseas Chinese on everyday life – the case of Zhongshan County', International Symposium on 'International Migration and Qiaoxiang Studies', Guangdong Qiaoxiang Cultural Research Center, Wuyi University, Jiangmen, China, 11-14 December 2014.

Williams, M, 'Sojourners and Birds of Passage: Chinese/Italian Return Migration 1871 to 1914, an Australian/U.S. comparative', Global Diasporas in the Age of High Imperialism, University of Kassel, September 2014.

Williams, M, 'Stopping Them Using Our Boats: Defending White Australia from Chinese passenger smugglers', 'Boat People': The Long History of Immigration in Australia, University of Western Sydney, June 2014.

Williams, M, 'Chinese Australia, the View from the Village', Australian Historical Association, 11th Biennial Conference, Crossing Boundaries, Brisbane, 3-7 July 2002.

Williams, M, 'From Fragrant Hills to Middle Mountain: Researching Zhongshan's Pacific Connections', Comparative Perspectives on the History of Urban Trans-Pacific Chinese, Sydney, 12 July 2002.

Williams, M, 'Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta Qiaoxiang', Hong Kong Culture and Society Program Conference, Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong, December 2001.

Williams, M 'Would Not This Help Your Federation?', Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation Conference, The Chinese Museum, Melbourne, July 2000.

Williams, M, 'Australia's Qiaoxiang 僑鄉 - the Role of the "Home Districts" in Chinese Australian History', Workshop on the Chinese in Australian and New Zealand History, UNSW, 11-13 February 2000.

Williams, M, 'Brief Sojourn in Your Native Land - Sydney's Huaqiao and Their Links With South China During the First Half of the Twentieth Century', Asians in Australian History Conference, Griffith University, June 1999.


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