Australian History

Robert Kenny reviews 'Living with Fire''

Robert Kenny
Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fire, more than any other thing, challenges the divide between the cultural and the natural, between being human and the non-human world. We make a pact, if not with a devil, at least with terrible danger when we use fire; and it is a pact, despite how it might seem in our urban modernity, over which we have no choice. We need fire. It doesn’t need us. If it ...

Even the most seasoned political observers would have been surprised at the Palmer United Party’s triumph at the federal election, which saw it claim three seats in the Senate. Was it a stroke of luck or the work of a remarkable political strategist? In any case, the political fate of the PUP’s founder remains undecided ...

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Simon Caterson on 'Melbourne: City of Words'

Simon Caterson
Monday, 30 September 2013

To judge by John McLaren’s thought-provoking survey of 200 years of writing about Melbourne, the city’s most insidious negative feature for many observers – wrong-headed though they may be – is dullness. In George Johnston’s My Brother Jack (1964), the narrator David Meredith rails against the suburbs as ‘worse than slums. They betrayed noth ...

Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'W. Macmahon Ball'

Lyndon Megarrity
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

William Macmahon Ball (1901–86) was many things: an academic, a diplomat, a writer, and what we would now refer to as a ‘public intellectual’. As Ai Kobayashi’s new study of this fascinating man ably demonstrates, Ball was predominantly an educator. In the classroom, through books, and in the media, Ball encouraged his audience to reflect more deeply a ...

Colin Nettelbeck on 'Silences and Secrets'

Colin Nettelbeck
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Kay Dreyfus was inspired to write about the Weintraubs Syncopators after seeing a German documentary at the Melbourne Jewish Film Festival in 2000. The film recounted the story of this interwar dance and variety band, which had earned fame in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930), and later used a European tour to escape from Hitler’s jazz- an ...

Paul Brunton reviews 'While the Billy Boils'

Paul Brunton
Monday, 26 August 2013

It is not often that a truly ground-breaking work appears, publishers’ hype notwithstanding. Paul Eggert has produced two such works in the one year, which must be a record. Both relate to Henry Lawson (1867–1922), arguably the most famous Australian writer of all time.

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Martin Thomas reviews 'Where is Dr Leichhardt?'

Martin Thomas
Monday, 26 August 2013

Among all the myriad characters, brilliant and brutish, fraudulent and fabulous, who lobbed into New South Wales in the mid-nineteenth century, Ludwig Leichhardt, born in rural Prussia 200 years ago, was in a class of his own.

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Jacqueline Kent – Julia Gillard’s first biographer – reviews journalist Kerry-Anne Walsh’s highly partisan account of Gillard’s ill-fated prime ministership and the ceaseless hospitality of the Rudd camp. ... (read more)

Stephanie Owen Reeder reviews new picture books addressing war

Stephanie Owen Reeder
Thursday, 27 June 2013

Depicting war in a picture book requires a deft hand. Historical imperatives need to be considered, while also avoiding glorifying war for a young and impressionable audience. Ideally, such books should promote informed discussion rather than mindless militarism.

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John Thompson on 'Glorious Days: Australia 1913'

John Thompson
Thursday, 27 June 2013

Not altogether surprisingly, the centenary this year of the foundation and naming of Canberra as the national capital of Australia has passed without any conspicuous celebration of the event beyond the confines of the city itself. Conceived to embody and represent the aspirations of the new Australian nation, unfettered by the rivalries and jealousies of the s ...