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The Best Books About Australian History

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The history of the continent of Australia is long, and not without its controversy. Home to the longest-living culture in the world, Aboriginal Australians have called the island home for more than 50,000 years. There are an array of books written on the history of Australia, from the evidence of the farming practices of Indigenous Australians to the landing of the First Fleet in Botany Bay and the events that followed.

The books below come from the mind of authors such as Bruce Pascoe, Peter Carey, Meredith Lake, David Hunt, and many more. These are the best books about Australian history.

Dark Emu

By Bruce Pascoe
Dark Emu is a book you’ve no doubt heard of. Written by academic Bruce Pascoe, the book examines notebooks and diaries from European settlers and ponders the question of if we should consider the hunter-gatherer tag that has been given to Indigenous Australians. A book that every Australian should read. The book provides evidence of agricultural practices, rituals, and villages built by Indigenous Australians.

Buy Dark Emu here.
You can buy a children’s version of Dark Emu also.

The Bible in Australia

By Meredith Lake
Winner of 2019 Prime Minister’s Australian History Prize, The Bible in Australia follows the arrival of the bible into Australia, and the effects it had on anyone and everyone in the country. “A must-read for non-believers and believers alike, The Bible in Australia explores how in the hands of Bible-bashers, immigrants, suffragists, evangelists, unionists, writers, artists and Indigenous Australians, the Bible has played a defining and contested role in this country.”

Buy The Bible in Australia here.

The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding

By Robert Hughes
First published in 1986, The Fatal Shore shines a light on the horrible experiences that were had on convicts, and of course, Indigenous Australians when Europeans first landed on Australian shores. Be prepared to spend some time on this one, with 600 pages it’s not a book you’re going to finish over a weekend.

Buy The Fatal Shore here.

The Biggest Estate on Earth

By Bill Gammage
In The Biggest Estate on Earth, Bill Gammage uncovers the extraordinary land management systems and agricultural practices that Indigenous Australians used to manage country. Like Dark Emu, The Biggest Estate on Earth questions the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that has been taught about Indigenous Australians and presents evidence to the contrary.

Buy The Biggest Estate on Earth here.

A Concise History of Australia

By Stuart McIntyre
Now in its fifth edition, Stuart McIntyre’s A Concise History of Australia follows the narrative of Australia’s First Nations peoples, to the First Fleet, to the gold rush, and beyond. The book examines the social, cultural, political and economic developments that created a modern Australia.

Buy A Concise History of Australia here.

The Dismissal

By Paul Kelly
Drawing from a range of sources, along with hundreds of pages from John Kerr’s archive, The Dismissal dives deep into one of Australia’s biggest political dramas⁠—the ousting of Prime Minister Gough Whitlamn by Governor General John Kerr.

Buy The Dismissal here.

Ned Kelly: A Short Life

By Ian Jones
Covering Australia’s most notorious bushranger, Ian Jones’ biography of Ned Kelly has been described by The Australian as ‘the best Kelly biography by a country mile’. Jones trawled records, and interviewed descendants of those involved to pull together a tale of Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s most iconic figures.

Buy Ned Kelly: A Short Life here.


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