Anna ClarkSep 16, 2022
Making Australian History
Random House Australia 2022
Australian history has been revised and reinterpreted by successive generations of historians, writers, governments and public commentators, yet there has been no account of the ways it has changed, who makes history, and how. Making Australian History (Random House Australia, 2022) responds to this critical gap in Australian historical research. A few years ago Anna Clark saw a series of paintings on a sandstone cliff face in the Northern Territory. There were characteristic crosshatched images of fat barramundi and turtles, as well as sprayed handprints and several human figures with spears. Next to them was a long gun, painted with white ochre, an unmistakable image of the colonisers. Was this an Indigenous rendering of contact? A work of history? Each piece of history has a message and context that depends on who wrote it and when. Australian history has swirled and contorted over the years: the history wars have embroiled historians, politicians and public commentators alike, while debates over historical fiction have been as divisive. History isn't just about understanding what happened and why. It also reflects the persuasions, politics and prejudices of its authors. Each iteration of Australia's national story reveals not only the past in question, but also the guiding concerns and perceptions of each generation of history makers.
Making Australian History is bold and inclusive: it catalogues and contextualises changing readings of the past, it examines the increasingly problematic role of historians as national storytellers, and it incorporates the stories of people.
Anna Clark is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney, where she also serves as an Associate Professor at the School of Communication. Her previous publications include: Teaching The Nation (University of Melbourne Press, 2006) and History’s Children: History Wars in the Classroom (University of New South Wales Press, 2008).
Benjamin Goh is a MPhil in World History Candidate at the University of Cambridge. He focuses on youth and education histories in Southeast Asia and is presently working on his dissertation that explores history-making at the University of Malaya in the 1950s and 1960s. He tweets at @BenGohsToSchool.