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Issue Details: First known date: 2021... no. 5 August 2021 of Australian Journal of Biography and History est. 2018 Australian Journal of Biography and History
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'This special issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History focuses on political biography. The 10 peer-reviewed articles and review essays collectively demonstrate that political biography is growing beyond just ‘one damned life after another’, and that there are new and productive paths open for practitioners, readers and critics of this genre. They offer a critical snapshot of the diverse approaches and attitudes to political biography in contemporary Australia.'  (Publication abstract)

Contents

* Contents derived from the 2021 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Preface, Joshua Black , Stephen Wilks , single work essay
'The relative decline of political history as a sub-discipline of history has not been matched by any evident decline in political biography. Quite the opposite, in fact, particularly among general readers. Perhaps this is due to its capacity for drama and for the high degree of human agency in political events. Yet political biography has long occupied an uneasy position on the spectrum of academic genres of writing. Gone are the days when all of human history was considered simply a story of great men and their deeds. Importantly, we no longer consider the ‘political’ as expressly limited to the realm of mass parties and national legislatures; as Michelle Arrow has comprehensively demonstrated, a popular catchphrase of 1970s Australia— ‘the personal is political’—ran directly counter to the notion of a neat and separable division between public and private selves.' (Introduction)
(p. v-ix)
Australian Political Biography and Biographers : Revisiting Australian Political Biography, Kate White , single work criticism
'This article is both a personal and academic reflection of my experiences as a student, teacher and practitioner of Australian political biography, and also of working with parliamentarians. It revisits my analysis of the genre published in Politics in 1981, but with a different focus. Whereas the earlier article identified various categories of political biography, here I will also be reflecting on my own experience of Australian political biography and of the academics and journalists who write them. As well, I will discuss how political biography has changed in the intervening 40 years and how my views of it have changed.' (Introduction)
(p. 1-21)
Where Are the Great Women? A Feminist Analysis of Australian Political Biographies, Blair Williams , single work criticism
'As women have become more visible in the Australian political sphere, the volume of writing about their lives, careers and experiences has also increased. This has brought to light certain challenges and shortcomings, as well as enduring discursive biases in the existing literature. Political history, for example, and especially political biography, has generally ‘privileged the political activities of men and masculine political institutions’, telling the stories of so-called Great Men while excluding those who do not traditionally belong to this cohort. Any attempt to summarise the current state of biographies written on Australian political women and to assess the extent to which these can be improved must therefore address several overlapping lines of inquiry, the four most fundamental of which have been chosen for discussion in this article. First, I will provide an overview of the institutional and discursive masculine biases of political biographies in general. Second, I will outline the state of biographies written on women politicians, noting the lack of such texts and an increasing turn towards autobiography. Third, I compare two recent biographies on women politicians—Anna Broinowski’s Please Explain (2017) and Margaret Simons’s Penny Wong (2019)—to demonstrate how a tendency towards excessive personalisation can become problematic. Lastly, by exploring feminist approaches to political biography, I provide a working definition of feminist political biography and propose a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for those political biographers who seek to develop a more inclusive model.' (Introduction)
(p. 23-37)
‘A Historian’s Diary’ : Autobiography, Life Writing and Neal Blewett’s A Cabinet Diary Revisited, Joshua Black , single work criticism
'‘Are you, in fact, a historian?’ I have been confronted with that question more than once with respect to studies of political biography and memoir. Experts in fields ranging from English literature and memory studies to cultural studies have suggested to me, almost casually, that a sophisticated analysis of the political memoir or diary can only take place within the framework of autobiographical or memory theory. One cultural studies specialist proposed that these texts belonged within the remit of New Historicism, a branch of literary analysis that assumes that ‘literary texts can in fact tell us something about the world outside of the text’. In another instance, a conference attendee mused that this kind of research could not constitute the work of a historian, but was instead a facet of the broader field of life writing. The relationship between history and biography—including political biography— remains complex and contested, with the former both shunning and occasionally embracing the latter. Studies of the political memoir and diary genres are, I would suggest, even more fraught with intellectual uncertainty.' (Introduction)
(p. 49-68)
It’s Not about You : The Negligible Biographical Information in Australian Prime Ministerial Portraits, Sarah Engledow , single work criticism
'In November 1945, Mrs R. D. Berry of Walcha, New South Wales, wrote to Prime Minister Ben Chifley, offering to send a portrait she had painted of the late John Curtin for his consideration. Chifley directed the deputy secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, Frank McKenna, to tell her that he would ‘not be in a position to express an opinion regarding its artistic merits’ and to advise her to send the portrait to the chairman of the Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board, Gother V. F. Mann. Soon, however, McKenna had to write again to Mrs Berry to inform her that ‘Mr Mann … does not think an amateur without art education could produce the desired result’ in a portrait of Curtin. Kindly but discouragingly, he told her that ‘Mr Mann would be glad to report on your painting if he saw it, but he does not think it advisable to trouble you to send the painting to his office for that purpose.’' (Introduction)
(p. 69-93)
‘They Have Put a Cyclist in’ : The Political Lives of Australia’s Sporting Champions, Daniel Oakman , single work criticism
'Winning the federal electorate of Corio has not been easy for Australian conservatives. Never has this been more apparent than in 1949, when the Geelong-centred seat, 80 kilometres west of Melbourne, was firmly in the hands of Australian Labor Party firebrand and minister for postwar reconstruction John Dedman. Nonetheless, the recently formed Liberal Party moved their challenger and his family to the electorate and prepared him for battle against one of Labor’s most experienced and respected members. When the Liberal leader, Robert Menzies, learned of his party’s preferred candidate, he was understandably concerned. He told Dedman’s private secretary, unable to hide his dismay, that ‘they [my party] have made a present of Corio to your minister’, as ‘they have put a cyclist in’.' (Introduction)
(p. 95-119)
‘Menzies Biography Mystery’ : Robert Menzies and Political Biography as Political Intervention, Chris Wallace-Crabbe , single work criticism
'The silhouette of an unpublished biography of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister flashed briefly into public view when journalist Allan Dawes, 69 years old and in failing health, died in Melbourne in 1969. Dawes’s death brought to mind ‘a secret which has mystified politicians and writers for almost 20 years’, the Sydney Sunday Telegraph said, given the commissioning of the ‘distinguished newspaperman, poet and author’ in the early 1950s to write a biography of the then prime minister, Robert Menzies.1 A Sun News-Pictorial report outlined the Scotch College and University of Melbourne–educated Dawes’s career, beginning with the Melbourne Age in 1918, then the Sun and Daily Telegraph in Sydney, and the Argus and Star in Melbourne, before joining the Melbourne Herald during World War II where he was an acclaimed war correspondent.2 Dawes’s book Soldier Superb: The Australian Fights in New Guinea, with drawings by Russell Drysdale and official photographs, was published in 1943.3 After the war he wrote a regular column for the Herald and worked in public relations, while continuing to write more broadly; the Sun News-Pictorial noted that ‘hundreds of his short stories and verse’ were published over his lifetime.4 So Dawes was a seasoned journalist, an accomplished writer and experienced in public relations. A period from 1938 to 1941 working as a journalist in the public service in Canberra under the Lyons and Menzies governments gave him an insider perspective on the business of politics too. Dawes was the experienced, well-rounded author Robert Menzies turned to in 1950 to write a biography that could improve the prime minister’s standing among voters who stubbornly failed to warm to him. Menzies’s move was novel in Australia, which had no tradition of political biography as political intervention, in contrast to the United States where campaign biographies of presidential candidates were routine from the early nineteenth century onwards.5 Despite extensive work, the Menzies biography was never published. The reasons for this are contested.' 

 (Introduction)

(p. 121-145)
‘None of You Will Believe It’ : Control, Truth and Myth in the Life of Billy McMahon, Patricia Mullins , single work criticism
'Widely regarded as one of Australia’s worst prime ministers, William—‘Billy’— McMahon laboured in his retirement to produce an autobiography that would put forward the story of his life and laudable career as he saw it. But McMahon’s inability to reconcile that story with the archive of documents he had compiled, and the stories that his colleagues told in their own books, ensured that progress on his autobiography would be incomplete by the time of his death in 1988. This essay traces McMahon’s efforts to assert control of his story, via his archive and work with ghost-writers and publishers on his autobiography, and the effect that this had on the biography of McMahon that I published in 2018.1 I reflect on the two stories that my biography tells—of McMahon’s life, as I have understood it, and McMahon’s attempts to understand and portray his life—and the effect of each on the ontological stability and certainty of the other.' (Introduction)
(p. 147-166)
The Challenges and Rewards of Political Memoir Writing, Robert Tickner , single work essay
'I have unexpectedly been invited to share the ‘behind the scenes’ story of two autobiographical books that I have written concerning aspects of my public and related personal life. I was at first reticent to undertake the process of sharing the inside account of how a political autobiography is conceived and ultimately carried forward into print. Reticent, because I always knew that I was not a gifted creative writer and that, like the process of making sausages, knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes in the creation of a political memoir—or any book for that matter—is not always entertaining, enlightening or uplifting.' (Introduction)
(p. 169-185)
Backbenchers to the Front : A Case for Political History from below?, Stephen Wilks , single work essay
'Wars have led to innumerable fine memoirs by foot soldiers. Less so Australian politics. Memoirs of note by backbenchers reflecting on their service in an Australian parliament are few. The journalist and military historian Max Hastings once wrote that he did not seek interviews with surviving military officers of very senior rank as due to their age the result was usually ‘a conversational train running upon familiar railway lines’; the recollections of regimental and battalion commanders were of greater historical value.1 My own observations of published writings on government are that senior ministers and departmental secretaries are typically so weighed down by personal baggage that they often default to a reassuring account that invites only minimal reflection on the author’s own record. Could those sitting quietly on the backbench (or even at a lonely desk in a government agency) have acquired a more cogent understanding of events, less weighed down by reputational self-interest?' (Introduction)
(p. 189-203)
[Review] Warren Mundine in Black and White, Murray Goot , Tim Rowse , single work review
— Review of Warren Mundine In Black and White : Race, Politics and Changing Australia Nyunggai Warren Mundine , 2017 single work autobiography ;
'Indigenous autobiography is a flourishing genre, but few of their authors are or have been political figures.2 Warren Mundine—at various times a shire councillor, president of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and unsuccessful Liberal Party candidate—is the most seasoned Indigenous political figure yet to attempt an autobiography. Warren Mundine in Black + White: Race, Politics and Changing Australia, Mundine’s memoir of his family, marriages and political career, is also his incomplete political manifesto.3 Mundine is not looking back in tranquillity; he is in the midst of a political career that could yet see him in the Australian Parliament. His book is written with the confidence of someone who is frequently before the public, a respected and at times iconoclastic commentator on public affairs.' (Introduction)
(p. 205-226)
Malcolm Allbrook Review of Anne Scrimgeour, On Red Earth Walking : The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike, Western Australia 1946–1949, Malcolm Allbrook , single work review
— Review of On Red Earth Walking : The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike, Western Australia 1946–1949 Anne Scrimgeour , 2020 multi chapter work criticism ;
'When Pilbara Aboriginal pastoral workers started coordinated strike action in May 1946, the Western Australian press did not know whether or not to take it seriously. ‘Nothing workem longa you’, a spokesman for the strikers, identified only as ‘Toby’, was quoted as saying by the West Australian; ‘We bin strike’. Displaying a common mixture of disdain and mockery, the report went on to blame visitors from other stations who induced the workers to stay up playing cards so they would ‘resent the necessity of early rising’,1 and it was this, rather than the intolerable work conditions, that had brought on the strike. Not all contemporary reports were so flippant. Soon after the strike had started, the same newspaper acknowledged the dilemma the pastoralists and the state government faced. The ‘squatters’ could not work their stations ‘without the help of the natives’, who in turn could not live without ‘the help of the station owners and other employers’.2 Both parties stood to lose from what was portrayed as a mutually beneficial relationship. Furthermore, most station owners, the argument went, provided well for their station workforces and, indeed, some said that they gained little return from their beneficence.' (Introduction)
(p. 229-232)
Michelle Arrow Review of Iola Mathews, Winning for Women : A Personal Story, Michelle Arrow , single work review
— Review of Winning for Women : A Personal Story Iola Mathews , 2019 single work autobiography ;
(p. 233-237)
Jennifer Bird Review of Cassandra Pybus, Truganini : Journey through the Apocalypse, Jennifer Bird , single work review
— Review of Truganini : Journey through the Apocalypse Cassandra Pybus , 2020 single work biography ;
'My 18-year-old daughter, on seeing Cassandra Pybus’s Truganini lying on my bedside table, immediately picked it up and stroked its cover sighing, ‘what a beautiful book’. Indeed, it is. Inside and out. The cover photograph of Peter Dombrovskis’s ‘Giant kelp’ taken at Hasselborough Bay, Macquarie Island, Tasmania, gives an emotive, textural feeling to a beautifully written book.' (Introduction)
(p. 239-243)
Shane Breynard Review of Desley Deacon, Judith Anderson : Australian Star, First Lady of the American Stage, Shane Breynard , single work
— Review of Judith Anderson : Australian Star, First Lady of the American Stage Desley Deacon , 2019 single work biography ;
'It is a privilege to read a biography in which one realises that the author’s own story will offer a very special appreciation of the life being studied. Desley Deacon’s energetic and detailed exploration of the life of Adelaide-born stage and film actor Judith Anderson (1897–1992) rewards its readers in just this way.' (Introduction)
(p. 245-249)
Tansy Curtin Review of Clem Gorman and Therese Gorman, Intrépide : Australian Women Artists in Early Twentieth-Century France, Tansy Curtin , single work review
— Review of Intrépide : Australian Women Artists in Early Twentieth-century France Clem Gorman , Therese Gorman , 2020 single work biography ;
'After their having been for so long sidelined and forgotten, there is now without doubt a major global push to reclaim the artistic stories and legacies of female artists. In recent years, many galleries and museums around the world have turned their attention to programs and exhibitions presenting works on, or by, women. In 2020 the National Gallery of Australia launched a two-year project titled Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now, which seeks to bring the names of Australia’s female artists to the fore—living artists, as well as those who have been lost to history. While it is undoubtedly de rigueur to examine the work of female artists, that is not to say that political box-ticking explains the heightened interest in this cohort; rather, there is a general awakening to the inequities of the arts world (and wider world more generally) and the layers of privilege within it, particularly in relation to gender and race. Concomitantly with this reawakening comes the realisation that the work of these (women) artists should be exalted and elevated to a new status and that there is a palpable need to widen the scope of the Western tradition or canon of art to ensure these artists receive the acknowledgement due to them. It is into this new world, post the #MeToo movement, that Clem and Therese Gorman’s Intrépide has been launched. Arguably, the world in 2020 is a very different place from that of 2015, when the authors commenced their investigations, which of course does not negate the impact of their scholarship, but perhaps makes readers, both academic and lay readers, more critically aware of the subject matter constituting this publication.' (Introduction)
 
(p. 251-254)
Stephen Foster Review of Bettina Bradbury, Caroline’s Dilemma : A Colonial Inheritance Saga, Stephen Forster , single work review
— Review of Caroline's Dilemma Bettina Bradbury , 2019 single work biography ;
'Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–69), memorably described the legal power of a father over his children as ‘the empire of the father’—a phrase that might equally be applied to the husband’s power over his wife. A mother, as Blackstone explained in parentheses, was ‘entitled to no power, but only to reverence and respect’.' (Introduction)
(p. 255-258)
Emily Gallagher Review of Cathy Perkins, The Shelf Life of Zora Cross, Emily Gallagher , single work review
— Review of The Shelf Life of Zora Cross Cathy Perkins , 2019 single work biography ;
Cathy Perkins’s The Shelf Life of Zora Cross begins with a scene not unfamiliar to readers of Australian literary history: a ‘little schoolgirl’ scribbling away on the ‘splintery verandah’ of her family’s bush home. According to family lore, the nine-year-old had been destined for the inky way long before she gripped her first pencil. An ode was written soon after her birth foretelling her career as a writer, and when the poet Mary Hannay Foott met the two-year-old in 1892 she was impressed to discover the youngster could compose rhymes.

 (Introduction)

(p. 259-264)
Stephen Holt Review of David Day, Maurice Blackburn: Champion of the People, Stephen Holt , single work review
— Review of Maurice Blackburn : Champion of the People David Day , 2019 single work biography ;
'Senior Labor politicians and trade unions in Australia have long needed to draw on a reliable supply of good legal advice.' (Introduction)
(p. 265-269)
Barry Jones Review of Anne Pender, Seven Big Australians : Adventures with Comic Actors, Barry Jones , single work review
— Review of Seven Big Australians : Adventures with Comic Actors Anne Pender , 2019 multi chapter work biography ;
'Seven Big Australians was supported by a Future Fellowship awarded by the Australian Research Council, and the author/researcher Anne Pender is Professor of English and Theatre Studies at the University of New England. Her seven subjects, all interviewed at length, are Carol Raye (37 pages), Barry Humphries (34), Noeline Brown (29), Max Gillies (53), John Clarke (38), Tony Sheldon (46) and Denise Scott (35).' (Introduction)
(p. 271-274)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

Preface Joshua Black , Stephen Wilks , 2021 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Journal of Biography and History , August no. 5 2021; (p. v-ix)
'The relative decline of political history as a sub-discipline of history has not been matched by any evident decline in political biography. Quite the opposite, in fact, particularly among general readers. Perhaps this is due to its capacity for drama and for the high degree of human agency in political events. Yet political biography has long occupied an uneasy position on the spectrum of academic genres of writing. Gone are the days when all of human history was considered simply a story of great men and their deeds. Importantly, we no longer consider the ‘political’ as expressly limited to the realm of mass parties and national legislatures; as Michelle Arrow has comprehensively demonstrated, a popular catchphrase of 1970s Australia— ‘the personal is political’—ran directly counter to the notion of a neat and separable division between public and private selves.' (Introduction)
Preface Joshua Black , Stephen Wilks , 2021 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Journal of Biography and History , August no. 5 2021; (p. v-ix)
'The relative decline of political history as a sub-discipline of history has not been matched by any evident decline in political biography. Quite the opposite, in fact, particularly among general readers. Perhaps this is due to its capacity for drama and for the high degree of human agency in political events. Yet political biography has long occupied an uneasy position on the spectrum of academic genres of writing. Gone are the days when all of human history was considered simply a story of great men and their deeds. Importantly, we no longer consider the ‘political’ as expressly limited to the realm of mass parties and national legislatures; as Michelle Arrow has comprehensively demonstrated, a popular catchphrase of 1970s Australia— ‘the personal is political’—ran directly counter to the notion of a neat and separable division between public and private selves.' (Introduction)
Last amended 2 Sep 2021 12:12:18
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