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John Hirst, Looking for Australia.

John Hirst, Looking for Australia, Black Inc, Melbourne, 2010, 272 pages; ISBN 978 186395 486 0.

This portrait of Australia as a nation with its own political culture takes the form of a collection of essays by one of the country's most distinguished historians. John Hirst was a reader in history at La Trobe University for many years and has latterly featured in the public eye as author of the history of Australia for new citizens and a prominent participant in John Howard's 2006 History Summit. All but one of these essays were previously published between 1988 and 2008 in publications such as The Monthly. They are grouped in sections headed 'Telling the History', 'National Character', 'Political Life', 'A Nation of Immigrants' and 'A British Dependency'. The first of these includes a review of the best 11 Australian history books and a discussion of narrative versus theme in historical writing as well as a 21-page potted history of Australia for immigrants which Hirst wrote in 2007. Other topics include convictism, bushrangers, Australian Rules football, compulsory voting, republicanism, multiculturalism and whether Curtin was our greatest prime minister. This is a book of ideas with no illustrations to distract the reader.

Anne-Maree Whitaker

Book Review Editor

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Author:Whitaker, Anne-Maree
Publication:Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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