Staining the Wattle: A people’s history of Australia since 1788
McPhee Gribble/Penguin, 308 pp, $16.95 pb
Staining the Wattle is the fourth volume of a series edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee collectively entitled A People’s History of Australia since 1788. People’s history, as understood by Burgmann and Lee, is not popular history, that is to say history written to be of interest to the general reader. This book actually makes very dull reading. Nor is it exactly, at least to judge by this volume, social history, that is to say history dealing with the lives of ordinary people. This book is about politics. People’s history, as understood by Burgmann and Lee, seems, rather, to be ideologically useful history; history as a weapon of social change, as a means for the unmasking of the forces of oppression which have shapes, and for the glorification of the forces of progress which have struggled to reshape, Australian history.