Switching to Fiction
Since the publication of my novel The Making of Martin Sparrow in 2018 I have often been asked the question ‘What made you turn to fiction?’ This has turned out, usually, to be a question with a sub-text: ‘What made you, a long-time historian, cross over to the other side?’ But whatever form the question takes, my answer is always the same: ‘That’s easy,’ I say, ‘you get to make things up.’ It’s a rejoinder that is nowhere near as liberating as it may sound. Just what is meant by ‘make things up’? And is the writer now free, discharged of all responsibility to history, having gone over to the other side?
Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia
by Samia Khatun
University of Queensland Press
Published September, 2019
What Khatun so deftly accomplishes is the almost impossible task of working from inside imperial intelligence (in all senses of the word), but thinking from traditions outside them, bringing entire repositories of knowledge from epistemes not accorded legitimacy by hegemonic codifications of colonial world-making.
The British in India: Three Centuries of Ambition and Experience
by David Gilmour
Published September, 2018
The Banality of Empire
Overall, The British in India reads not so much as a successful call for more rigorous public engagement with the nuances of empire’s history as it does a retreat back into the arrogant position of a scholar who has never felt it particularly necessary to justify his interest in the everyday lives and literature of white people (racist or not), to the exclusion of all else. His admonishment for postcolonial scholars to spend ‚Äúmore time in the archives‚Äù raises the question of which archives he sees as valuable, given the scarcity of Indian voices in his social history.’
The Enigmatic Mr Deakin
by Judith Brett
At The Limits of Liberalism: The Enigmatic Mr Deakin
Why then is Brett’s new biography important? It is important, because, written with conspicuous skill and economy, it is the leading continuation and affirmation of Deakin’s liberal-progressive life and work in our own troubled times of short parliaments and major geopolitical changes – the rise of China at a time of uncertainty about US leadership in the world today. It is important because, in those ways, it offers the most rational defence of Deakin’s nation against the changes he already saw the need to guard it against. But while the biography presents the face of liberal reason and a sharp, though still sympathetic psychological and political portrait, it generates a certain silence. Its greatest importance may indeed be that it takes us to the limits of its liberal comfort zone. For at that limit, it becomes possible to see how the biography’s minimal history represents the ongoing liberal denial of the geopolitical reality that was a mainspring of federation.
The Year Everything Changed: 2001
by Phillipa McGuinness
Published May, 2018
The Sydney Wars
by Stephen Gapps
Published May, 2018
Deep Time Dreaming
by Billy Griffiths
Published February, 2018
We Are All Truth-Tellers Now
Cultural scholarship is usually contentious, let alone the kinds of scholarship that infer knowledge about the deep past from limited and fragile sources, but points of scholarly consensus around the autochthonous culture of Australia before and during the transitional phase of European ‘contact’ and then European colonisation have emerged and joined over the last 60 years or so to form extraordinary history, a history that Indigenous narrative traditions were always inviting the non-Indigenous imagination to engage with.
Forging the Declaration
Cook appears, in Namatjira’s paintings, a reminder, remainder, corpse, trace, or ghost: a symbol of the repeated and the repeatable, the rule of law, and the law of the father. He signifies the continuity of settler sovereignty in the body of the current Queen, and the continuity of invasion in the form of a constant companion.
The Battle of Fromelles 1916
by Roger Lee
Australian Army Campaign Series 8
Published August, 2011
Attack on the Somme: 1st Anzac Corps and the Battle of Pozières Ridge 1916
by Meleah Hampton
Published February, 2016
Into the Jaws of the Monster: Fromelles and Pozières, 1916
Roger Lee’s The Battle of Fromelles and Meleah Hampton’s Attack on the Somme are part of a relatively recent shift in the focus of Australian military history: they revisit big battles on the Western Front, which few works have done since Charles Bean’s Official History (1921-42). It’s as though, inflated with myths of Gallipoli, our Great War literature has had little use for strategic reality. Perhaps it takes a century to get clear of the revulsion aroused by the killing in that war – which Bean blocked out by writing the original romance of it as heroic achievement.
The Honest History Book
by David Stephens and Alison Broinowski (eds)
Published April, 2017
Trench Warfare: The Honest History Book
It seems we are living through a near perfect storm of Anzac historical consumption, with a number of factors working in concert. First, Australian historical narratives have been deeply challenged by the emergence and power of Indigenous historical perspectives, especially since the 1970s and 1980s. Australia’s ‘origin story’, once characterised by discovery, nascent democracy and workers’ rights, has been powerfully reimagined by Indigenous writers and rights activists as a narrative of invasion and dispossession.’
Dancing with Strangers
by Inga Clendinnen
Published August, 2017
Origin Story: Dancing with Strangers
‘Dancing with Strangers would have an honoured place in Australian historiography by virtue of the skill, intelligence and literary brilliance of its author alone. It is the product of a lifetime spent interrogating first-encounter texts to reveal and make understandable their hidden truths. But what is most remarkable about the book is the invitation it extends to readers to learn and wonder in the company of such a brilliant historian. ‘