Catherine Jones

Australian Nationalism: A documentary history edited by Stephen Alomes and Catherine Jones

August 1991, no. 133

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.

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