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The Heritage of the upper North: a short history

This project involved a heritage survey of an area of some 24,000 square kilometres covering the North Mount Lofty Ranges and South Flinders Ranges. This was the historic wheat belt where the Strangways land legislation had its greatest impact, bringing about a dramatic economic transition from grazing to cropping in the 1870s.

The survey was part of a long-term project, extending over twenty years, to record South Australia's built heritage by means of systematic regional surveys of the fourteen geographical and economic regions of the state. South Australia is the only Australian state to have completed a comprehensive inventory of its heritage resources in this way. The historical component of such a survey needs to concentrate on the history of what is there today, and must set out the narrative of European settlement of the region, identify the main forms of economic activity and centres of settlement, and trace how these changed over time. Above all, it needs to focus on what is distinctive about this region, and avoid the pitfall of writing local history that sounds the same as the history of everywhere else. The historical narrative is compiled early in the survey project, because it is intended to inform the process of field investigation, and alert the survey team to the places which are most important and distinctive in the physical heritage of the region.

This essay was written by Peter Bell in 1998 as part of the unpublished consulting report Heritage of the Upper North, a project commissioned by the South Australian Department for Environment, Heritage & Aboriginal Affairs and completed in 2000 by a team composed of Historical Research Pty Ltd, Austral Archaeology Pty Ltd and Flightpath Architects.

Peter Bell is an Adelaide historian and heritage consultant with a PhD in Australian history from James Cook University. His consulting projects have included a number of heritage surveys in South Australia and other states.

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