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Verity Burgmann

Verity Burgmann’s Power and Protest is an evocation of the major social movements that have arisen and thrived in Australia since the late 1960s, the black, women’s, lesbian and gay, peace and green movements. The writer is a well-known historian of Australian radicalism as well as a political scientist, and in combining history and politics she joins other social scientists such as Terry Irving, Judith Brett, James Walter, Murray Goot – an interesting tradition. In each chapter she offers an evocation of the various movements, outlining origins, developments, aspects, divisions, conflicts, difficulties, dilemmas, successes, achievements, as well as the opposition and resistance to these movements in the wider society. Burgmann writes with ease and energy, often with enjoyable irony and sarcasm. I liked her reference to Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics (1970) as ‘ovarious’. Power and Protest is entertaining as well as clear, and will surely prove indispensable for teaching.

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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.

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Making a Life edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee & Constructing a Culture edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee

June 1988, no. 101

The title A People’s History of Australia is certainly a grand one. Its multi-volume predecessors have more modest titles, such as Clark’s disarmingly simple A History of Australia or the eleven-volume Australians: a historical library. The People’s History’s aspirations go beyond content to embrace audience. This is refreshing to see as many Australian scholars still regard their colleagues as the only audience that matters. The editors say in their introduction that:

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