Penny Russell

Penny Russell

Penny Russell is a historian of families, intimacy, and social encounters in nineteenth-century Australia, with a longstanding interest in the intricacies of gender, class, race, and culture in colonial societies. Her books include (with Nigel Worden) Honourable Intentions? Violence and virtue in Australian and cape colonies, c.1750 to 1850 (Routledge, 2016) and Savage or Civilised? Manners in colonial Australia (NewSouth, 2010). Penny is a Professor Emerita at The University of Sydney.

Penny Russell reviews 'Lessons from History: Leading historians tackle Australia’s greatest challenges' edited by Carolyn Holbrook, Lyndon Megarrity, and David Lowe

July 2022, no. 444 25 June 2022
Penny Russell reviews 'Lessons from History: Leading historians tackle Australia’s greatest challenges' edited by Carolyn Holbrook, Lyndon Megarrity, and David Lowe
Lessons from History is a big, ambitious book. Its twenty-two essays – amounting to some 400 pages of research, reflection, and references – seek to pin down, in accessible form, the combined expertise of thirty-three practitioners of history and related fields. Together they address a mélange of pressing issues facing Australia today, testament to the diversity of contemporary Australian his ... (read more)

Penny Russell reviews 'An Uncommon Hangman: The life and deaths of Robert "Nosey Bob" Howard' by Rachel Franks

May 2022, no. 442 23 April 2022
Penny Russell reviews 'An Uncommon Hangman: The life and deaths of Robert "Nosey Bob" Howard' by Rachel Franks
When the offer came to review this book, I accepted enthusiastically, and unthinkingly added, ‘That sounds fun!’. Upon reflection, I deleted that last sentence: what would it say about me, I wondered, that I should expect the account of a hangman and his work to be entertaining? I thought better of the sentence, but the anticipation remained. ... (read more)

Penny Russell reviews 'Making Australian History' by Anna Clark

March 2022, no. 440 04 February 2022
Penny Russell reviews 'Making Australian History' by Anna Clark
There are many ways one might write a history of Australian history, but from any angle it is a heroic project. In Making Australian History, Anna Clark is open about the difficulties, the possibilities, and her choices. How do you make sense of Australian history, she asks, amid a ‘swirl of changing sensibilities, methods, culture, politics and place’? How do you trace the story of a discipli ... (read more)

Penny Russell reviews 'William Cooper: An Aboriginal life story' by Bain Attwood

December 2021, no. 438 23 November 2021
Penny Russell reviews 'William Cooper: An Aboriginal life story' by Bain Attwood
The name of Yorta Yorta elder William Cooper shines bright in the history of Aboriginal activism in Australia between the two world wars. It is linked with the formation of the Australian Aborigines’ League, of which he was the founding secretary; the Day of Mourning on the anniversary of white settlement in 1938; and a petition intended for George V, signed by almost 2,000 Aboriginal people and ... (read more)

Penny Russell reviews 'Moving Stories: An Intimate History of Four Women Across Two Countries' by Alistair Thomson

September 2011, no. 334 23 August 2011
Penny Russell reviews 'Moving Stories: An Intimate History of Four Women Across Two Countries' by Alistair Thomson
Gwen Good’s migration to Perth in 1963 turned out well. She loved Australia, the climate that turned life into one long summer holiday, and the house that she and her family soon acquired. She was an active member of her church, and a contented wife and mother who revelled in her children. By the 1980s she was ready to give away the bundle of reel-to-reel tapes on which, decades before, the fami ... (read more)