An academic from The Australian National University (ANU), who left school at 15 to work in a factory and later won a university scholarship, has been inducted into the British Academy – the United Kingdom’s national body for the humanities and social sciences.
Emeritus Professor Peter Bellwood from the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology is the second ANU academic to be inducted in the past year, following ANU College of Law Professor Jane Stapleton’s invitation in 2015.
The British Academy’s citation says he was inducted for his “multidisciplinary reconstruction of prehistoric human migrations across the world and the multiregional development of agricultural societies, with a disciplinary focus on the archaeology of Southeast Asia and Oceania”.
Professor Bellwood said he was honoured to be inducted.
"I was actually lecturing on a cruise ship in the western Philippines when I received the Academy’s email,” Professor Bellwood says.
“I got back about 10 days later and found their letter in the mail.”
Born in Leicester, England, Professor Bellwood says he’s always been “fairly obsessed” by archaeology.
“I left school when I was 15 and worked in a factory for a few years, but got terribly bored by that and started reading books about archaeology. I went back to school and eventually got a scholarship to go to Cambridge in 1963.”
He obtained his Bachelor of Arts from Kings College in 1966 and had to choose between staying at Cambridge and undertaking a PhD on European-focused archaeology and migration, or moving abroad.
“I thought the Polynesians sounded much more exciting because it’s a much nicer climate and they went a lot further,” he recalls, laughing.
He moved to New Zealand as a lecturer for six years, which included multiple trips to the Cook Islands and French Polynesia. Professor John Mulvaney, also a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy (1983), invited him to join the ANU in 1973. Professor Bellwood received his PhD from Cambridge in 1980.
“I have to say I’ve never tried to leave ANU. It’s been a very good place because of its strong base in Asian studies.”
He has taught at least 40 Masters and PhD students, many from southeast Asia here on scholarships, and remains a supervisor of two PhD candidates.
“I congratulate Emeritus Professor Bellwood on behalf of the College of Arts and Social Sciences and the ANU,” said Dean, Professor Paul Pickering.
“It’s no easy feat to be inducted in to the British Academy.
“We celebrate Peter’s latest achievement and are delighted to have an academic of his stature continuing to supervise PhD students in our School of Archaeology and Anthropology.”
Professor Bellwood says he’s experiencing a “very productive spurt” of creativity and has been finalising his latest book, First Islanders (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming), which will accompany his First Farmers (2004) and First Migrants (2013).
He also holds an ARC Discovery grant for research in Island Southeast Asia with his colleagues, currently in Vietnam, Philippines and the Mariana Islands.
Professor Bellwood will attend the British Academy induction ceremony in September, making his already planned visit to London twice as sweet.
“I’ll be England anyway as we’ve grandson number three and we haven’t seen him yet, except through Skype!”