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Donna Merwick

Donna Merwick (1932–2021) was an American-born Australian historian who specialised in colonial American history. Along with Greg Dening and Inga Clendinnen, she was a leading member of the ‘Melbourne School’ of history that brought ethnographic nuance and narrative craft to the writing of the past. She was the author of a number of significant studies including Possessing Albany: 1630-1710: The Dutch and English Experiences (1990), Death of a Notary: Conquest and change in colonial New York (1999), and Stuyvesant Bound: An essay on loss across time (2013).

Donna Merwick reviews ‘Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway slaves of the American revolution and their global quest for liberty’ by Cassandra Pybus

March 2006, no. 279 01 March 2006
Until about twenty years ago, historians of colonial North America were writing about it as ‘this strange New World’. Whether because of distance or a native frontier, inflated (or skewed) visions, J. Hector St John de Crèvecoeur’s new man, the American, was thought to have been born on an unknown and therefore malleable physical and institutional landscape. Everything could, as it were, be ... (read more)

Donna Merwick reviews 'The Global Reach of Empire: Britain’s maritime expansion in the Indian and Pacific oceans, 1764–1815' by Alan Frost

October 2003, no. 255 01 October 2003
Some reviewers like to stamp their own character on a review in its opening sentences. I prefer, however, to share with you some of Alan Frost’s words: When I was a boy, living in a village set against a beach in Far North Queensland, I was struck by two kinds of trees. Ringing the beach at intervals were great ‘beach-nut’ trees (Calophyllum inophyllum). As early photographs of the beach ... (read more)

Donna Merwick reviews 'Lincoln' by Thomas Keneally

May 2003, no. 251 01 May 2003
Weidenfeld & Nicolson were both wise and fortunate in their choice of Thomas Keneally to write a study of Abraham Lincoln for their Lives series. He in turn gifted them, and us, with a story that listens closely to Lincoln’s words and sees some shape in the internal and external demons that so often troubled his life. Keneally’s narrative moves quietly alongside the Illinois rail-splitter ... (read more)

Donna Merwick reviews 'The Politics of War: Race, class, and conflict in revolutionary Virginia' by Michael A. McDonnell

June 2007, no. 292 01 June 2007
Over the past four years, we Australians have had considerable experience of the conflicted, and sometimes agonising, politics of war. In this study, Michael A. McDonnell, a historian at the University of Sydney, examines the unanticipated social and political contestations aroused by the demands of another war. In the late eighteenth century, Virginia endured a six-year struggle against the imper ... (read more)