Australian History

It seems to be only a couple of years ago that my students declared gender and race to be the ‘hot’ topics in culture. Now, I confidently predict, they will relegate gender (still acknowledging its importance) and reformulate the second term by adding a third: race and its intersection with religion, in its broadest definition.

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Manning Clark rescued Australian history from blandness and predictability by making Australia a cockpit in which the great faiths of Europe continued their battle, with results that were distinctive. He concentrated on the great characters who were bearers of one of the faiths: Protestantism, Catholicism, or the Enlightenment.

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When John Hirst accepted the challenge of writing a history of Federation of scholarly quality but fit for a broad popular readership, he may have felt himself on a hiding to nothing. Previous historians have succeeded in convincing Australians that the story of the making of the Australian Commonwealth is at best dull.

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Anyone who heard Inga Clendinnen’s 1999 Boyer Lectures or who has listened to her in any other way will hear her voice clearly in this book: contemplative, reflective, warm, gently paced. Dancing with Strangers seems to have been written as if it were meant to be read aloud. It reaches out to its listeners ...

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The first volume in this series, Beverley Kingston’s A History of New South Wales, was published in 2006. Since then another five have appeared, including a book on Tasmania by Henry Reynolds and another on Victoria by Geoffrey Blainey. Cambridge University Press may be proceeding with its ...

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There is much to admire about this detailed and painstaking book. The authors have entered a field that is replete with stereotypes and even gags. They will have none of it. The result is an account of the Irish in Australia subtly modulated and insistent on evidence. It is suspicious of the lore and yarns that have sometimes been made to take their place ...

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Billy McMahon, Australia’s twentieth prime minister, held the post for less than two years (March 1971–December 1972). In surveys of both public esteem and professional opinion, he is generally ranked as our least accomplished prime minister. He is also, until now, the only prime minister for whom there has been no ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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In pondering the construction of public memory in Ireland, the eminent American historian Richard White insisted on the demythologising work of history as a discipline: ‘History is the enemy of memory. The two stalk each other across the fields of the past, claiming the same terrain. History forges weapons from what memory has forgotten or suppressed.’ In Best We Forget: The war for white Australia, 1914–18 ...

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