Australian History

Paul Brunton reviews 'A Forger's Progress' by Alasdair McGregor

Paul Brunton
Thursday, 26 February 2015

The twenty or so elegant Georgian buildings designed by Francis Greenway that stand in Sydney today are a civilising presence. Yet these represent less than a quarter of his output. The destruction has been wanton and impoverishing.

Greenway was born in November 1777, near Bristol. His ...

Luke Slattery reviews 'Australians, Volume 3' by Thomas Keneally

Luke Slattery
Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The European settlement of Australia, the colony’s earliest years, its expansion into, and alienation of, lands inhabited for millennia by the first Australians: these are the great and abiding themes of the Australian story. Together with the rather overdone nationalist narratives of war rekindled each and every Anzac Day, they are the focal points of popular his ...

2007 Calibre Prize (commended): 'Death Dance' by David Hansen

David Hansen
Thursday, 08 January 2015

I am at the exhibition ‘National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries’. I have come to see a picture of a man named Bungaree. I am standing in front of him, but I am distanced. The painting is glazed, low-lit, hung on a wall on the far side of quite a deep display case. If I stand up straight he is in focus, but too far away for me to see the details. As ...

The white explorers who first penetrated the interior of this continent were exceptional men. White Australians of the time considered them heroes, performing an essential role in identifying opportunities for exploitation, settlement, and commerce. Mostly, the explorers were heroic – determined, tough, single-minded, and stoic in the face of enormous hardship. Th ...

In times of high moral outrage at the barbarism of others, it is salutary to be reminded of the state-sanctioned viciousness of Australia’s past. Simon Barnard’s AZ of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land does this brilliantly. Australian convict history is a crowded field, but Barnar ...

Billy Griffiths reviews 'A History of Canberra' by Nicholas Brown

Billy Griffiths
Thursday, 30 October 2014

‘Canberra’ is a loaded term among Australians. The capital embodies the aspirations, expectations, and disappointments of a nation. It is at once a bold experiment in Australian democracy and a national source of ambivalence and derision, the unfortunate shorthand for the federal government, and a symbol of Australia’s collective disenchantment with politics. ...

On 17 January 1991, Alan Atkinson wrote to fellow historian Manning Clark to express his appreciation after reading The Puzzles of Childhood (1989) and The Quest for Grace (1990), Clark’s two volumes of autobiography. While Clark had only four months to live, Atkinson would soon begin work on The Europeans in Australia, a three-v ...

David Day on 'Menzies at War'

David Day
Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Prime ministers seem to value longevity, whether it is Bob Hawke relishing the fact that he served longer than John Curtin and Ben Chifley combined, or John Howard relishing that he served longer than Hawke. But no prime minister is likely to serve as long as Robert Menzies’ sixteen years as prime minister from 1949 to 1966. His record is even more impressive when ...

Forty years ago next Christmas, a cyclone devastated Australia’s northernmost city, Darwin. It is a disaster still clear in the living memory of most Australians over fifty, but it also belongs to the past, the time before we had become aware of climate change. At the time, it was the kind of natural disaster to be expected in summer in the Top End, even if its fe ...

Tasmania is a small place with a rich historiography. Two themes in particular have intrigued historians and novelists since the nineteenth century and have appealed to film-makers and artists in more recent times. The fate of the Aborigines and the convict system which dominated society from 1803 to 1853 ...

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