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Billy Griffiths

Billy Griffiths

Billy Griffiths is an Australian writer and historian. His latest book, Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia (Black Inc., 2018), won the Ernest Scott Prize, the Felicia A. Holton Book Award, the John Mulvaney Book Award, the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction and the 2019 Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. He lectures in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne.

Billy Griffiths reviews 'Science, Secrecy and the Smithsonian: The strange history of the Pacific Ocean biological survey' by Ed Regis

May 2023, no. 453 24 April 2023
In 1962, a small group of scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC embarked on what would become the most ambitious biological survey of the Pacific oceans. Across seven years they travelled to more than 200 islands over an area almost the size of the continental United States. They banded 1.8 million birds, captured hundreds of live and skinned specimens, and collected ‘cou ... (read more)

Billy Griffiths reviews 'What Is History, Now? How the past and present speak to each other' edited by Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb

January–February 2022, no. 439 20 December 2021
In early 1961, historian Edward Hallett Carr (1892–1982) delivered a series of lectures on his craft. The resulting book, What Is History?, was a provocation to his peers and a caution against positivist views of the past. He urged the reader to ‘study the historian before you begin to study the facts’. He illuminated the subjectivities of the historical process, from the moment a ‘fact’ ... (read more)

Billy Griffiths reviews 'Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse' by Cassandra Pybus

April 2020, no. 420 19 March 2020
Listen to this review read by the author. Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse follows the life of the strong Nuenonne woman who lived through the dramatic upheavals of invasion and dispossession and became known around the world as the so-called ‘last Tasmanian’. But the figure at the heart of this book is George Augustus Robinson, the self-styled missionary and chronicler who was cha ... (read more)

'Scar Tissue: Searching for Retribution Camp' by Billy Griffiths

October 2019, no. 415 25 September 2019
At first I can’t make out the inscription, even though I’m searching for it. Smooth new bark has grown into the cuts, bulging around the incision, preserving the words on the trunk. I run my hand across the surface, tracing the grooves, feeling the letters: R-E-T-R-I-B-U-T-I-O-N. And below, in slightly larger hand, ‘CAMP’. We are in the boab belt, the ‘western wilds’ of the Victoria R ... (read more)

Editorial by Billy Griffiths

October 2019, no. 415 24 September 2019
This year, the Australian bushfire season began in winter. A long, dry summer – the warmest on record – lingered into and then beyond autumn. By spring, more than one hundred uncontrolled fires were raging across the eastern seaboard, reaching into ecological regions unfamiliar with flame. It is alarming how routine such record-breaking extremes have become, and how readily, in political state ... (read more)

Billy Griffiths reviews 'This Time: Australia’s republican past and future' by Benjamin T. Jones

May 2018, no. 401 26 April 2018
In the lead-up to the 1999 republic referendum, historian John Hirst published a short guide to Australian democracy and law. ‘This is not a textbook,’ he wrote in the preface; rather, he intended it to be a ‘painless introduction’ to the system of government that had formed in this country under the British monarchy. He did not hide his republican tendencies: ‘The book will still have s ... (read more)

Billy Griffiths reviews 'The Vandemonian War: The secret history of Britain’s Tasmanian invasion' by Nick Brodie

September 2017, no. 394 29 August 2017
Nick Brodie, a medievalist and ‘professional history nerd’, enjoys writing in a revelatory tone. His latest book, The Vandemonian War: The secret history of Britain’s Tasmanian invasion, claims to unveil ‘for the first time’ the ‘real story’ of the Tasmanian conflict in the 1820s and 1830s known as the Black War or the Vandemonian War. It is an argument against the generations of his ... (read more)

Billy Griffiths reviews 'Rattling Spears: A history of indigenous Australian' art by Ian McLean

November 2016, no. 386 28 October 2016
This beautifully illustrated book explores the ways in which Indigenous Australians have responded to invasion through art. ‘Where colonists saw a gulf,’ writes art historian Ian McLean, ‘Aborigines saw bridges. They didn’t hesitate to be modern, but on their terms.’ The tension between old and new, tradition and modernity, is evoked in the image of the rattling spears in the title. Bef ... (read more)

Reading Australia: 'Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines' by David Unaipon

Reading Australia 31 August 2016
David Unaipon's Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines is part of the classical culture of Australia. The collection is as varied in subject as it is ambitious in scope, ranging from ethnographic essays on sport, hunting, fishing and witchcraft to the legends of ancestral beings who transformed the landscape in the Dreaming. The stories are unified by the voice of Unaipon, Australia's first ... (read more)
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