‘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

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.

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Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the author of short stories, essays, and biographies. He was a weekly columnist for the Weekend Australian Magazine (1997–2001) and has been a monthly columnist for Eureka Street since 1997. His memoir A Fine and Private Place (2000) won the inaugural Queensland Premier’s Award for non-fiction and his Manning Clark: A Life (2008) won the National Biography Award in 2010.

Published in February 2014 no. 358