‘All the far-fetched greatness’

Discrete narratives in the ADB

‘All the far-fetched greatness’

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18: 1981–1990 (L–Z)

edited by Melanie Nolan

Melbourne University Press, $140 hb, 687 pp, 9780522861310

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the author of short stories, essays, and biographies. He was a weekly columnist for the Weekend Australian


In his brief preface to Volume 1 of the Australian Dictionary of Biography 17881850 A–H (1966), Douglas Pike describes the ‘all-Australian, Commonwealth-wide … consultation and co-operation’ underpinning the volume and notes that the breadth and complexity of its intellectual network meant the Dictionary could ‘truly be called a national project’. Five decades later, in an informative, elegant introduction to Volume 18, the present general editor, Melanie Nolan, endorses Pike’s pioneering claim for the ADB, describing it as ‘a national collaborative project, the largest and longest running of its kind in the social sciences and humanities in Australia’. As such – ‘a reference work for many purposes’ – it is familiar territory to historians, researchers, biographers, film-makers, novelists, and any number of browsing general readers.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in February 2014 no. 358