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Alan Atkinson

Alan Atkinson

Alan Atkinson is an honorary senior research fellow at the University of Western Australia. The third and final volume of his book, The Europeans in Australia, won the Victorian Prize for Literature 2015 and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History. He is also the author of Camden, The Commonwealth of Speech and a number of other books. His forthcoming book, Elizabeth and John: The Macarthurs of Elizabeth Farm (NewSouth Publishing), will appear in late 2022.

Alan Atkinson reviews 'The Land of Dreams: How Australians won their freedom, 1788–1860' by David Kemp

January-February 2019, no. 408 18 December 2018
This is the first of a five-volume series, apparently all by David Kemp, with the general title Australian Liberalism. The second volume, A Free Country: Australians’ search for utopia 1861–1901, is planned by Melbourne University Publishing next year. Kemp was senior lecturer and then Professor of Politics at Monash University until 1990, and after that a minister in John Howard’s governmen ... (read more)

Alan Atkinson on 'Endeavour: The Ship and the Attitude that Changed the World' by Peter Moore

October 2018, no. 405 25 September 2018
In 1786, extraordinary limewood carvings at Hampton Court near London by the seventeenth-century master Grinling Gibbons were destroyed by fire. A recent book by the American carver David Esterly, The Lost Carving: A journey to the heart of making (2012), describes his own commissioned efforts to replicate and replace those carvings. It is a thoroughly enjoyable book. To read it is to sense the pu ... (read more)

Alan Atkinson reviews 'The Sydney Wars: Conflict in the early colony, 1788–1817' by Stephen Gapps

August 2018, no. 403 25 July 2018
The Uluru Statement from the Heart, in May 2017, might not have had much resonance with the federal government. However, it coincides with a new phase of writing and research that helps to round out its long-term significance and impact. Mark McKenna has expanded on the importance of the Uluru Statement in the March 2018 Quarterly Essay (Moment of Truth). He points out that, among other things, th ... (read more)

Alan Atkinson reviews 'The Bible in Australia: A cultural history' by Meredith Lake

May 2018, no. 401 24 April 2018
The Bible in Australia is an unpretentious title for a remarkable book, and yet it is accurate enough. The Bible has been an ever-present aspect of life in Australia for 230 years, but no one has ever thought through its profound importance before. By starting her argument in a place both strange and obvious, Meredith Lake comes up with startling possibilities, and they keep surfacing all the way ... (read more)

Alan Atkinson reviews 'Hidden in Plain View: The Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney' by Paul Irish

August 2017, no. 393 23 July 2017
Nothing has done more to add to the ingenuity of Australian history writing than the study of Indigenous experience. This book, which concentrates on people living in Sydney and its immediate hinterlands from 1788 to the 1930s, is a case in point. The impact of such scholarship has been a long drawn-out process, often echoing trends in various areas overseas. In 2001, for instance, James Belich ... (read more)

Alan Atkinson reviews 'Scurvy: The disease of discovery' by Jonathan Lamb

April 2017, no. 390 23 March 2017
I have been dazzled and baffled by this book. The variety of learning, showing itself especially in a range of beautiful and apposite quotations, is wonderful. The depiction of scurvy as subjective experience is brilliant and deeply sympathetic. However, parts of the historical argument are very hard to follow, and altogether they suggest that the imagination at play in these pages is more thoroug ... (read more)

ABR RAFT Fellowship: 'How do we live with ourselves? The Australian national conscience' by Alan Atkinson

September 2016, no. 384 22 August 2016
'Never have sentinels between the human and the inhuman been more necessary.' Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior's Honor[i] When Australian federation was being planned and its implications first worked through, various men and women with agendas of their own set themselves to make something of it. For some, it was all about internal free trade. For some it was about the equal participation of women ... (read more)

Alan Atkinson reviews 'Settler Society in the Australian Colonies' by Angela Woollacott

August 2015, no. 373 29 July 2015
Free settlement in Australia from 1788 to the 1850s is an old and favourite topic for historians in this country. It has engaged historical imagination for nearly two centuries, starting with William Charles Wentworth’s A Statistical, Historical, and Political Description of the Colony of New South Wales, published in London in 1819. Many other histories were written during the period itself, fo ... (read more)
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