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Historical Studies

I am writing this review in a cafe in the main street of Gympie, a town founded on gold discoveries in 1867. It is 200 kilometres north of Brisbane and seventy kilometres from the coast. Frontier types abound in a town population of 11,000 and in farming communities around. Rough, craggy, sunburnt faces, wizened facial muscles, arms creased by years of hard work and a determined walk. In their everyday habits they exhibit loyalty to friends, a capacity to improvise and a contempt for blacks. And these are the women.

As our feminist historians have pointed out, there are few women in Russel Ward’s The Australian Legend, first published in 1958. Indeed in the index there are only a handful of entries: ‘on goldfields’, ‘prostitution’ or and ‘shortage of, in bush’, the last being the longest entry.

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Jack Gregory has devoted much of his long career in China studies to teaching and studying the ways in which the West and China have interrelated. He is well qualified to write on the subject. Classes that Gregory has given in Melbourne to students attending University of the Third Age classes have inspired this book. In style and structure, it is highly suitable for teaching. The writing is clear, interesting and accessible. Though the book could have done with some pictures, it does have a map and the presentation is attractive.

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