Australian History

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

Alan Atkinson
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 ... More

Simon Caterson reviews 'Australian Catholic Lives' by Edmund Campion

Simon Caterson
29 May 2015

‘Most history is simply lost.’ By means of a regular biographical column in the Jesuit magazine Madonna published over the past twenty-five years, Father Edmund Campion has preserved pieces of Australian personal history that might otherwise have been neglected, if not forgotten altogether. In this, the author’s second collection of biographical sketche ... More

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'Trendyville' by Renate Howe, David Nichols, and Graeme Davison

Frank Bongiorno
29 May 2015

In the Melbourne suburb where I spent my childhood, a café was a place where ethnic men played cards and backgammon, puffed on cigarettes, and looked up from time to time to watch through the window the passing parade on the footpath outside. Now, when I return to Northcote, I am often served in hip cafés by boyish men with Ned Kelly beards and stylishly informal ... More

Reading Australia: 'For the Term of His Natural Life' by Marcus Clarke

Brian Matthews
28 May 2015

In his essay ‘The Fiction Fields of Australia’ (1856), Frederick Sinnett conducts an inquiry ‘into the feasibility of writing Australian novels; or, to use other words, into the suitability of Australian life and scenery for the novel writers’ purpose and, secondly, into the right manner of their treatment’.More

John Thompson reviews 'Lost Relations' by Graeme Davison

John Thompson
28 May 2015

Clear-eyed, unsentimental, but compassionate, with a nicely honed flair for story-telling, Graeme Davison is one of Australia’s master historians. Now Emeritus Professor of History at Monash University, his early training was in R.M. Crawford’s so-called Melbourne History School, where it was simply assumed that books would be written. Crawford’s department at ... More

Geoffrey Blainey reviews 'Bearing Witness' by Peter Rees

Geoffrey Blainey
28 May 2015

Charles Bean is now seen as one of the classiest journalists and historians Australia has produced. Like many talented historians, he had no prior training in his craft, except as a war correspondent during World War I, when he wrote in the face of daily and nightly dangers such as most war journalists no longer have to confront.

I have the strong impression ... More

Tony Birch on 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith' by Thomas Keneally for Reading Australia

Tony Birch
27 May 2015

Thomas Keneally’s novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972) is based in part on historical events, particularly the crimes committed by Jimmy Governor, an Aboriginal man from New South Wales. In 1900, Governor was a key figure involved in the killing of nine Europeans, including five women and children. The killings followed Governor’s marriage t ... More

Deadline Gallipoli

Angus Tonkin
14 April 2015

If ever there were to be an exception to Winston Churchill’s military aphorism, ‘History is written by the victors’, the Anzac story would make a promising candidate. One doubts that those on the ground at Gallipoli would consider themselves victors. Yet here we are, one hundred years on, celebrating the Anzac tradition with mo ... More

Paul Giles reviews 'Incognita' by G.A. Mawer

Paul Giles
27 March 2015

As the author explains in his preface, Incognita had its genesis in events to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the voyages of Janszoon and Torres to the Cape York Peninsula in 1606, with the explorations of these Dutch mariners representing the first European sighting of Australia. This book has been several years in the making, and it offers an ... More

Simon Caterson reviews 'Mannix' by Brenda Niall

Simon Caterson
25 March 2015

With her long-awaited life of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, Brenda Niall, one of Australia’s leading biographers, has conquered a subject that for decades she regarded as compelling yet ‘intractable’. ‘As a presence (I wouldn’t claim such a remote and magisterial being as a neighbour) Daniel Mannix was part of my childhood,’ Niall recalls. She grew up in the ... More

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