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Frank Bongiorno

Frank Bongiorno

Frank Bongiorno teaches at the Australian National University and is President of the Australian Historical Association. His recent publications include Dreamers and Schemers: A political history of Australia (La Trobe University Press, 2022) and The Eighties: The decade that transformed Australia (Black Inc., 2015) and he is co-editor, with Benjamin T. Jones and John Uhr, of Elections Matter: Ten federal elections that shaped Australia (Monash University Publishing, 2018).

Frank Bongiorno reviews ‘Justice and Hope: Essays, lectures and other writings’ by Raimond Gaita

January-February 2024, no. 461 18 December 2023
For a man many would regard as the very epitome of the type, Raimond Gaita seems rather hostile to the concept of the intellectual. It is ‘irredeemably mediocre’, he explains, inferior to the kinds of moral and political responsibility that attach to teacher or politician. Intellectuals are active in the public domain, grappling with ideas, culture, and politics, but they have often lacked ind ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Prudish Nation: Life, love and libido' by Paul Dalgarno

December 2023, no. 460 27 November 2023
Max Dupain's portrait of Jean Lorraine, a favourite model among Sydney’s artists and photographers of the 1930s and 1940s, graces the elegant cover of Paul Dalgarno’s Prudish Nation. All that gives a somewhat misleading impression of the nature of this book. It is not a work of history. Nor is it an investigation of whether Australia is a notably prudish nation. The variety of gender and sexua ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'MUP: A centenary history' by Stuart Kells

April 2023, no. 452 27 March 2023
Publishers rarely become big news in Australia, university presses even less often. It was notable therefore that the departure in early 2019 of Melbourne University Publishing’s CEO, Louise Adler, and some members of the MUP board, became a matter on which so many of the nation’s political and cultural élite felt they needed to have an opinion. A strong coterie came out in her defence. This ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'How to Rule Your Own Country: The weird and wonderful world of micronations' by Harry Hobbs and George Williams

January-February 2023, no. 450 26 December 2022
There was a moment there, in the opening chapter of How to Rule Your Own Country: The weird and wonderful world of micronations, when I thought I was about to undertake an improving academic tour. The authors, Harry Hobbs and George Williams, are after all both legal academics. That first chapter has sections with earnest headings such as ‘What is a micronation?’ and ‘Why do people set up mi ... (read more)

'Politics by other means: Enlarging our diminished sense of political leadership' by Frank Bongiorno

May 2022, no. 442 23 April 2022
Earlier this year, Ray Hadley was interviewing Scott Morrison on 2GB when the subject turned to the internal preselection battles of the Liberal Party in New South Wales. ‘And so it’s time for those who, you know, don’t do this for a living, to really allow those who really need to get on for the sake of the Australian people here,’ Morrison declared, none too coherently. It is impossib ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Mission: Essays, speeches and ideas' by Noel Pearson

December 2021, no. 438 24 November 2021
The brief and unpretentious biography of Noel Pearson on the dust jacket of Mission: Essays, speeches and ideas describes him as ‘a lawyer, activist and founder of the Cape York Institute’. Although surely accurate, this gives little indication of the stature this remarkable man has assumed in Australian public life over the past thirty years. If Pearson is an activist, it is of an unusual kin ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Rush that Never Ended: A history of Australian mining, fifth edition' by Geoffrey Blainey and 'The Fuss that Never Ended: The life and work of Geoffrey Blainey' edited by Deborah Gare et al.

May 2003, no. 251 01 May 2003
‘He looks a bit like Marty Feldman with two good eyes.’ So wrote a journalist of Geoffrey Blainey in 1977. In The Fuss That Never Ended, a collection of essays on Blainey arising out of a Melbourne symposium, Bridget Griffen-Foley no less irreverently compares the historian to a character played by Steven Seagal in a movie she saw on television – not because he shares Seagal’s ‘fake tan, ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Brilliant Boy: Doc Evatt and the great Australian dissent' by Gideon Haigh

July 2021, no. 433 22 June 2021
To write of Herbert Vere Evatt (1894–1965) is to venture into a land where opinions are rarely held tentatively. While many aspects of his career have been controversial, his actions during the famous Split of 1955 arouse the most passionate criticism. Evatt is attacked, not only on the political right but frequently from within the Labor Party itself, for his alleged role in causing the catastr ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'A Liberal State: How Australians chose liberalism over socialism, 1926–1966' by David Kemp

April 2021, no. 430 23 March 2021
David Kemp, formerly professor of politics at Monash University and minister in the Howard government, has a fairly simple thesis about Australian politics in the years between the mid-1920s and the mid-1960s. Put crudely, Australians were offered a choice between socialism and liberalism. The Australian Labor Party offered them socialism. Kemp doesn’t much like it. It is one of the remarkable ... (read more)

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Factory 19' by Dennis Glover

January–February 2021, no. 428 17 December 2020
In the mid-1990s, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade paid me to research the year 1948. Although a little narrowly conceived for my liking, it wasn’t a bad job for a recently graduated PhD in history. I lasted a year. Most days I would head to the National Archives of Australia, then nestled among the panel beaters and porn shops of a Canberra industrial estate. My task was to work thro ... (read more)
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