2011 Festival of Ideas - Australian History and the Australian Present II: 20th Century Influences

National histories establish a deep and defining relationship between a people and place. In creating their own national history the settler societies confront the predicament of their novelty.

National histories establish a deep and defining relationship between a people and place. In creating their own national history the settler societies confront the predicament of their novelty.

In the absence of longevity, they can borrow the past of their parent society, they can adopt the past of their indigenous peoples, or they can define themselves as starting anew. Nineteenth-century Australia is usually seen as adopting the first strategy, in contrast to Mexico, which followed the second, and the United States, which proclaimed its novelty.

On closer inspection, I think that all three of these devices can be seen in Australia — though with changing emphases that I would like to explore in the session.