Who are the Australians?

Who are the Australians?

THE EUROPEANS IN AUSTRALIA, VOLUME THREE

by Alan Atkinson

NewSouth, $49.99 pb, 492 pp, 9780868409979

On 17 January 1991, Alan Atkinson wrote to fellow historian Manning Clark to express his appreciation after reading The Puzzles of Childhood (1989) and The Quest for Grace (1990), Clark’s two volumes of autobiography. While Clark had only four months to live, Atkinson would soon begin work on The Europeans in Australia, a three-volume history of his country that would occupy him over the next twenty years. ‘I enjoyed both [the autobiographies],’ he told Clark; they ‘had a kind of subjectivity about them. It’s a remarkable style you use, which seemed to relate very much to me, so that they taught me a lot.’ Atkinson later described how he was ‘profoundly influenced’ by Clark’s work. Even more than the vast scale of Clark’s six-volume A History of Australia, it was the ‘infinite variety and open-ended stillness … of the past itself’ that affected him so intensely. Clark had shown Atkinson that the historian must ‘not just reimagine the national story but also do it in ways that ask questions about humanity itself’.

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 November 2014, no. 366
Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna is an Australian Research Council Research Fellow in History at the University of Sydney. His most recent book, An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark (Miegunyah Press, 2011) won the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prize for Non-Fiction.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.