Sam Merrifield Prize

The annual Merrifield Prize is in honour of Sam Merrifield, foundation member of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, founding member of the Friends of the State Library, and founder of the Melbourne Branch. Among Merrifield’s many contributions to society, perhaps the foremost is the vast collection of labour history books, pamphlets, posters, minutes, and other ephemera that he amassed during his lifetime. The Merrifield Collection, now housed at the State Library of Victoria, is one of the most valuable collections of labour history in the state. Details of the collection can be accessed here: Sam Merrifield Papers. His prodigious research was recognised by an honorary doctorate from Monash University in 1973.

Born in Moonee Ponds in 1904, he forged a successful career as a surveyor until he was forced out of work during the Great Depression. Like many others, this experience reinforced his politics and deepened his already well developed sympathies. In 1943 Merrifield entered State Parliament for the ALP, first as member for Essendon, then Moonee Ponds. He lost his seat in the 1955 split, but re-entered Parliament, this time in the Legislative Council in 1958, where he served until he retired from politics in 1970. As a man, and as a researcher, Merrifield’s contribution to labour history is immeasurable.

The Merrifield prize

The Merrifield prize of $400 will be awarded for the most outstanding paper on radical, political, and working class history.

To be eligible

  1. Entries should be in the form of an original piece of research into any aspect of Australian radical, political, and working class history
  2. The manuscript must be based on recent research
  3. Length of manuscript: up to 8,000 words including footnotes
  4. Entrants should reside in Victoria
  5. Entrants should be ‘early career’ – such as enrolled students (eg honours, postgraduate), recent graduates or independent historians

Applications due by the 1st of June

Enquiries and applications should be sent to Dr Peter Love, Branch President. Applications close on 1 June.

The panel reserves the right not to award the prize in any year.


Photograph and biographical details drawn from Peter Love, Merrifield, Samuel (1904-1982), ADB Entry, forthcoming, and Peter Love, ‘The Merrifield Collection’, Labour History, no. 39, November 1980, pp. 89-94.

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