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Country storekeeping: A case study of the Daw family businesses in Ravensthorpe and other country areas of Western and South Australia, 1838-1957

Jamieson, Ronda (2000) Country storekeeping: A case study of the Daw family businesses in Ravensthorpe and other country areas of Western and South Australia, 1838-1957. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Country small business is a neglected study in Australian history. Regional and local histories often ignore or give scant attention to the business life of a community. A likely reason for this omission is a lack of business archival records.

In this case study, a wealth of records retained by the Daw family made it possible to trace the Daw family small businesses in country towns of South and Western Australia. The case study is valuable and unusual, not so much for the details of struggle, achievement, failures, joys and sufferings, which were experiences common to many involved in small business regardless of location, but because of the rich documentary record that enabled the business activities and lifestyle of a country storekeeper and small business enterprise to be explored and analysed. In isolated rural communities, the country storekeeper running the general store tried to cater for most needs while battling with poor communication and transport. As population fluctuated according to the fortunes of mining and agriculture in the towns in which the Daw family operated, and other businesses failed, the Daw store survived through the labour force provided by family members, and by diversifying to reduce dependence on income from the store. Business and social activities were focused on the continuation of the towns the family had chosen for business ventures, and in an effort to maintain population in the districts serviced.

The handling of debt was the biggest factor in the survival of the storekeeper, but also of the town and community the store served. The amount of credit demanded and given, the collection of debts, and the balancing act needed to pay suppliers for new stock, were all factors in that survival. The records covering this aspect of the Daw family’s small business were particularly strong. They included details of the lead up to, and the years of, the economic depression which commenced in 1929.

This thesis is a detailed analysis of a family’s small business ventures, on which rural areas depended, and which illuminates country small business in similar areas around Australia in the first half of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Layman, Lenore
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