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Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna

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

Mark McKenna reviews ‘Yarra: A diverting history of Melbourne’s murky river’ by Kristin Otto and ‘The Vision Splendid: A social and cultural history of rural Australia’ by Richard Waterhouse

November 2005, no. 276 01 November 2005
I remember Richard Waterhouse as my lecturer in American colonial history at Sydney University in 1978. Then in his late twenties, he stood at the lectern as if itching to break free, arms flailing, feet shifting, constantly pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose; every lecture had its moment of vaudeville. After daily suffering the monotone perorations of those who stood entombed in t ... (read more)

Mark McKenna reviews 'Killing for Country: A family story' by David Marr

October 2023, no. 458 24 September 2023
Forty-three years ago, David Marr – journalist, broadcaster, biographer, political commentator, and public intellectual – published his first book, a sharp, memorable biography of Garfield Barwick, former Liberal attorney-general and chief justice of the High Court. After the appearance of Patrick White: A life in 1991, long considered one of the best biographies ever written in Australia, he ... (read more)

Mark McKenna reviews 'History Wars: The Peter Ryan–Manning Clark controversy' by Doug Munro

January–February 2022, no. 439 20 December 2021
It was one of the most notorious episodes in the annals of Australian publishing. In September 1993, writing in Quadrant, Peter Ryan, the former director of Melbourne University Press (1962–87), publicly disowned Manning Clark’s six-volume A History of Australia. Clark had been dead for barely sixteen months. For scandalous copy and gossip-laden controversy, there was nothing to equal it, part ... (read more)

Mark McKenna reviews 'Illicit Love: Interracial sex and marriage in the United States and Australia' by Ann McGrath

April 2017, no. 390 23 March 2017
In the New England summer of 1825, the residents of Cornwall, Connecticut, built a funeral pyre in the middle of their village green. From a nearby window, nineteen-year-old Harriett Gold watched as the flames leapt into the sky, her heart consumed with ‘anguish’. Among those burning Harriett’s effigy was her brother, Stephen, who, like nearly all of the town’s citizens, had turned against ... (read more)

Mark McKenna reviews 'The Art of Time Travel: Historians and their craft' by Tom Griffiths

August 2016, no. 383 21 July 2016
For many writers, the contour and direction of a lifetime's work exists in a shadow-land. The relationship between one book and the next, and the lasting significance of an author's oeuvre remain partly obscure until the culture in which it was produced becomes 'history'. Even then, writers are rarely the best and most willing interpreters of their own work. ... (read more)

Mark McKenna reviews 'The Europeans in Australia, Volume 3: Nation' by Alan Atkinson

November 2014, no. 366 01 November 2014
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 tw ... (read more)