The Patrician and The Bloke: Geoffrey Serle and the making of Australian history
Pandanus, $34.95 pb, 397 pp, 1740761529
On the eve of the recent history summit, Education Minister Julie Bishop told an audience, which included some notable historians, that history was not peace studies, nor was it ‘social justice awareness week’, nor, for that matter, ‘conscious-raising about ecological sustainability’. History, she declared, was simply history: though when she went on to assert that ‘there was much to be proud of in the history of Australia’, it did seem that she might have an agenda of her own tucked away in her ideological handbag. If given the opportunity, some of the historians assembled at the summit could have told her quite a bit about how the study of Australian history has evolved, and what the significance of that enterprise has been for different generations of historians. But oxygen can be in short supply at a summit, and Ms Bishop had only a day to spare for history. It would be good, however, if she or her advisers could find time to read John Thompson’s The Patrician and the Bloke: Geoffrey Serle and the Making of Australian History, for it would give them some understanding of the kind of issues that have been involved in the teaching and writing of Australian history.