Looking for Australia: Historical essays
by John Hirst
Black Inc., $32.95 pb, 272 pp
John Hirst is a distinctive figure in Australian intellectual life. As an academic, he has had a distinguished career at La Trobe University in teaching, supervision, and research. He developed new subjects and methodologies with which to teach them. In addition to those concerning Australian history, there was his pioneering subject designed to inform students about Australia’s European cultural heritage, with some of the lectures recently published as The Shortest History of Europe (2009).
As many of his former colleagues have attested, Hirst was a major contributor to the intellectual ferment that so marked La Trobe’s History department in its glory days. And many of the country’s leading historians benefited from his incisive advice when he was editor of Australian Historical Studies in the 1980s. A number of his postgraduate students have also turned their theses into informative books, such as Ann McGrath’s Born in the Cattle: Aborigines in Cattle Country (1987).