Martin Thomas

Martin Thomas

Martin Thomas is Professor of History at the Australian National University. He is a cultural historian and documentary maker whose work spans landscape history, exploration, biography, and cross-cultural encounter. He has won numerous prizes including NSW Premier’s awards in history and literature, ABR’s Calibre Prize for his essay ‘Because it’s your country’, and the National Biography Award for The Many Worlds of R.H. Mathews. He is presently based at King’s College London, where he co-directs the Menzies Australia Institute.

'A period in the shade: Patrick White thirty years on' by Martin Thomas

June 2021, no. 432 26 May 2021
‘Your sense of permanence is perverted,’ said Holstius to Theodora Goodman in The Aunt’s Story (1948). ‘True permanence is a state of multiplication and division.’ The words are prescient, for Patrick White, who wrote them, has done rather well at dissolving into the impermanence of post-mortem obscurity. Perhaps unsurprisingly in view of the pandemic, the thirtieth anniversary of his d ... (read more)

Martin Thomas reviews 'Battarbee and Namatjira' by Martin Edmond

January-February 2015, no. 368 01 January 2015
Martin Thomas reviews 'Battarbee and Namatjira' by Martin Edmond
There was something of the alchemist in Albert Namatjira. Using the most liquescent of media, he created impressions of the driest terrain. Painting in watercolour involves the fluid dispersal of pigment. Yet in Namatjira we find colours distilled in such a way that each landscape glows with a quiet intensity. This evocation of light reveals the influence of Rex Battarbee, who, long before he bega ... (read more)

Leichhardt on the mind

September 2013, no. 354 26 August 2013
Leichhardt on the mind
Among all the myriad characters, brilliant and brutish, fraudulent and fabulous, who lobbed into New South Wales in the mid-nineteenth century, Ludwig Leichhardt, born in rural Prussia 200 years ago, was in a class of his own. ... (read more)

2013 Calibre Prize (Winner): ‘“Because it’s your country”: Bringing Back the Bones to West Arnhem Land'

April 2013, no. 350 24 March 2013
Listen to this essay read by the author. The morgue in Gunbalanya holds no more than half a dozen corpses – and, as usual, it was full. When the Old Man died in the wet season of 2012, they had to fly him to Darwin, only to discover that the morgue there was already overcrowded. So they moved him again, this time to Katherine, where they put him on ice until the funeral. The hot climate notwi ... (read more)