In Must-Read Histories — an event marking the launch of the History Speaks website — contributors ‘go live’ to discuss the question: what are the indispensable works of Australian history? Hosted by Dr Clare Wright.
Books, monographs, plays, novels, even films and poetry are all up for discussion as the nation’s leading historians outline and debate their choices for the must-read texts on Australian history.
Marcia Langton, Professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, nominates Watkin Tench’s A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, in New South Wales, Including an Accurate Description of the Situation of the Colony; and of its Natural Productions; Taken on the Spot (1793).
And Tim Soutphommasane, Research Fellow at Monash University’s National Centre for Australian Studies, turns his eye to Russel Ward’s The Australian Legend (1958).
Finally, with the panel open to questions from the floor, Macintyre and Soutphommasane are asked to clarify their position on the potential misogyny of their chosen texts. Langton adds that texts should be read in context and many have written to correct the prejudiced aspects of earlier works.
Stuart Macintyre has been chair of the Heritage Council of Victoria since 2015, and is regarded as one of Australia's most influential historians.
He's the former Dean of Arts at the University of Melbourne, and is Emeritus Laureate Professor of the University of Melbourne and a Professorial Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies.
Tim Soutphommasane is a political theorist and human rights advocate. From 2013 to 2018 he was Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. His previous books include Reclaiming Patriotism, The Virtuous Citizen, Don’t Go Back To Where You Came From and I’m Not Racist But... He has been a columnist for the Age and the Weekend Australian.
Professor Marcia Langton AM holds the Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne.
‘I am a feminist therefore I commit feminist acts. I’m not going to undermine the political importance of what I do.’
La Trobe University historian Professor Clare Wright has worked as an author, academic, political speechwriter, historical consultant, and radio and TV broadcaster. Her latest book, You Daughters of Freedom: The Australians Who Won the Vote and Inspired the World, has been praised by Senator Penny Wong and Anne Summers. Her earlier book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, won the 2014 Stella Prize and the 2014 NIB Award for Literature.