I’ve been asked to share
some of my favourite Australian History books
so I’ve made my selection,
and here they are.
First up is “Australian History Live”.
This is a real treasure trove.
It’s essentially a book full of primary sources
-that is, letters, diary entries, articles, photos, cartoons etc-
from eyewitnesses to events in Australian history.
It covers all sorts of topics,
from the standard ones you’d expect
-such as convicts, explorers, Gold Rush, the wars, depression-
to the less common ones,
like performers, natural disasters, the Olympics, shipwrecks, comets
and the rabbit proof fence.
This is the kind of book you could add to a daily reading basket
and read through over the course of a year.
Or simply as a buffet of interesting peeks into the past.
It’s definitely a gem for your bookshelves.
This next one is another favourite
-“Australian Backyard Explorer” by Peter Macinnis.
We read this beauty from front to back!
This book approaches the topic of Australian explorers
from a novel angle,
an angle that is much more appealing
than the usual approach taken when studying explorers.
The organising structure of the book is survival skills
and, as it talks about these skills,
it introduces various Australian explorers.
It explores the importance of adequate food and water supplies,
sharing what the explorers carried with them,
and situations where explorers were unprepared.
It talks about navigation and mapping,
and parts of Australia that were charted by various explorers.
It details the importance of observation and specimen collection
and includes lovely examples of the notebooks kept by the explorers.
It’s such a cleverly constructed book,
weaving important survival knowledge,
with stories of the explorers who had to rely on these skills.
It also includes quite a few hands-on projects,
which just make the study of explorers
a little more ‘interesting’
…if you know what I mean.
As a bonus, the book includes a fold out map
showing the paths of the explorers covered within the book.
This was definitely one of our much loved reads.
This next book was a more recent read
and one I wasn’t sure I’d like.
It’s called “Let the Land Speak” by Jackie French.
I was expecting this book to promote a number of ‘popular agendas’,
none of which I wish to find in my history books.
However, I was pleasantly surprised.
Yes, there was a little of this,
but we actually really enjoyed the book
and found it absolutely fascinating.
It approaches history from the perspective of the land
-looking at what the land can tell us about history,
which turns out to be quite a lot.
For example, the accepted story that the first fleet colonists almost starved
is a little questionable.
From the perspective of what we know of the land
from eyewitness accounts,
there was an abundance of food in the area
-both familiar and unfamiliar to the British.
So, the colonists couldn’t possibly have been starving.
The book then explores why we believe, or the colonists believed,
they were starving.
It’s a really eyeopening account,
one I’ll leave you to read in the book.
While we’re talking about books by Jackie French,
I’ll add all of her books to this list.
I wouldn’t say they are all brilliant or that her writing is outstanding,
but I will say that she’s a prolific writer of Australian historical fiction for children
(we don’t have many of those)
and we’ve quite enjoyed many of her books..
For the younger crowd, the primary school kids,
I’d recommend her animal histories.
Each book tells about a historic event or person
through the perspective of an animal.
All of these were great!
Her most recent series
is the ‘Secret History’ series.
I haven’t read all of these yet,
but the ones I have read, I’ve enjoyed.
Possibly my favourite Jackie French books
were these two
-“Tom Appleby: Convict Boy” and “The Night They Stormed Eureka”.
Another book and author we’ve enjoyed is
Anthony Hill’s “Captain Cook’s Apprentice”.
I’ve also got a couple of Anthony Hill’s war stories
and they were excellent too.
His books are geared more towards the older crowd.
This next one is out of print I believe,
but whenever I’ve needed a copy,
I haven’t found it terribly hard to find one.
It’s Meredith Hooper’s “The Journal of Watkin Stench”.
(Yes, she also wrote “History of Australia” with Manning Clark and Susanne Ferrier.”
“The Journal of Watkin Stench” is a real treat.
It tells the story of the first fleet from the perspective
of a rat who journeys to Australia on one of the first fleet ships.
We loved this story.
The next recommendation is a real classic
that, until very recently, you could not read
unless you were the lucky owner of one of the very hard to find
and extraordinarily expensive out of print copies.
Thankfully, Living Books Press has bought them back into print
and I’ve finally been able to read them to my men.
Yes, they were worth the wait.
Now, you have to remember that these stories are a product of their times,
but it is because they are a product of their times
that they should be included in our history studies.
Finally, but by no means least, are Pamela Rushby’s historical fiction books.
Gosh, I wish she wrote more Australian history novels.
They are excellent and we’ve loved them all!
“Interned” is a recent purchase
so I haven’t read that one yet,
and I’ve got another on its way to me,
“The Secret Battle”,
about a Brisbane event I’ve never even heard of.
The other three are absolute favourites
and I’d say they easily rival Jackie French’s books in the quality of the writing.
So, there you have it
-a selection of our favourite Australian history books.
Please feel free to share your own favourites in the comments section.
I’m always on the hunt for more great books.