Monday, June 05, 2006

In Praise of Geoffrey Blainey

Geoffrey Blainey is my favourite Australian historian. He writes with a force and clarity that I can only envy. He also has the capacity to bring the past alive, to point to the differences between the world we now live in and that holding at past periods.

We all live in a prison whose walls are set by our experience and the time in which we live. These walls stand between us and an effective understanding of past times. Blainey has a unique capacity to break through the walls, pointing to basic differences between the now and the past.

I say this because in my next posts on the history of New England I will be drawing from two of Blainey's books to explain elements of New England's past.

The first book is The Tyranny of Distance (21st century edition, Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney 2001). Subtitled "How distance shaped Australia's history", the book explores the ways in which Australia's vast distances have shaped our history and thought.

The second book is Black Kettle and Full Moon (Penguin Books, 2004). Subtitled "Daily life in a vanished Australia", the book is just that, an exploration of daily life up to the First World War.

I commend both books to you as thoroughly good reads.

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