Daniel J. Ryan
Bibliographic info:
8th Windsor Conference, 10-13 April, 2014, Windsor UK

While the desire for thermal control in our homes may today appear natural, its provision in the domestic sphere of early twentieth-century Australia was shaped by debates about regional development, household reform and racial acclimatisation. Contemporary publications by experts in tropical medicine highlight how thermal comfort research in Australia was intimately connected to the political objectives of white settlement in the tropical North. While outdoor work was seen to be safe for European men, the domestic thermal environment was considered a key impediment to the health and wellbeing of white Australian women. This paper critically examines three of the earliest surveys of the indoor thermal environment in Australia to establish how tropical medicine sought to understand domestic conditions of European settlers. It offers an insight into the early methods of thermal researchers and how the changing understanding of heat stress was politicised to promote reform of vernacular methods of construction.