Invented in 1855 by Admiral Rous, the dictatorial handicapper for the English Jockey Club, the weight-for-age scale (WFA) has shaped global racing and breeding for more than 150 years. A remarkably resilient measure, WFA cemented an all-pervasive ‘Englishness’ across the sport and Rous’s scale still ensures consistent global standards in thoroughbred racing. Rous arrived in Sydney Harbour in 1827, a British naval captain commanding the frigate Rainbow. He had soon formed a thoroughbred-importing firm in Launceston. Rous stood his own English stallion, Emigrant, so as to improve the colonial-breds, and after a posting to India, returned to Sydney with the thoroughbred mare, Iris. He then acquired 5,000 hectares of good horse pasture near today’s Canberra. Despite such colonial opportunities, Rous turned his back on New South Wales, sailing for England in 1829 where he survived a court martial, before turning to a career as steward and handicapper with the Jockey Club. On the one hand, Rous embodies the English character of racing, disseminated from Ascot and Newmarket to far-off corners of the globe. On the other, in his brief Antipodean sojourn, Rous’s breeding efforts hybridised the thoroughbred and played a part in the divergent trajectory of racing and breeding in Australasia and Asia. For unlike other sporting spectaculars, thoroughbred racing has benefited from a long tradition of globalising figures, Rous amongst them. Some aspects of this globalism are no doubt intensifying. Fees paid for services by shuttle stallions or the riches lavished on winners of events like the Japan Cup point to a global commerce in racing, breeding and increasingly in gambling. By the same token, alongside such signs of global interchange, we can still find places in which horses and horsepeople inhabit an intensely familiar landscape, where horizons are narrowing rather than broadening. Looking over a lush Ballydoyle in Ireland, Vincent O’Brien, one of the guiding hands in the global Coolmore bloodstock business once confided, ‘I could never leave here.’ Racing people have acquired the language of globalism and yet their dreams can remain unshakeably localised.
With the 21st century nearing the end of its first decade, it seems an appropriate moment to take stock of what labour historians are researching and writing about in 2009. Labour History in the New Century presents a collection of papers embracing a wide range of themes: anti-Labor organizations such as ASIO and the FBI; struggles by female and Indigenous workers for equal pay and conditions; conflict within the Communist Party of Australia; comparative studies, significant individuals, and papers contextualizing the labour movement in the latter 20th century