Australian Nationalism: A documentary history
Angus and Robertson, 464 pp, $35pb
A collection of documents that dramatises particular nationalist traditions and debates with the dynamism of a really good anthology.
First a confession. I’ve never been excited by the idea of reading a book of documents. Such collections come in useful if you’re a teacher or a historian (exactly what did Menzies say in his ‘melancholy duty’ speech at the outbreak of the Second World War?). But the material always seems to me decontextualised, reduced to a display of meaningless, numbered fragments, remnants from an unknowable void. And I can’t help wondering what’s been left out or how I’m being manipulated. A traditional history text proclaims its arguments. But in a book of documents the organising intelligence is all but silent. And so I’ve developed this prejudice: I think of books of documents as both dodgy and dull.