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A Shorter History of Australia  By  cover art

A Shorter History of Australia

By: Geoffrey Blainey
Narrated by: Humphrey Bower
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Publisher's Summary

After a lifetime of research and debate on Australian and international history, Geoffrey Blainey is well-placed to introduce us to the people who have played a part and to guide us through the events which have created the Australian identity: the mania for spectator sport, the suspicion of the tall poppy, the rivalries of Catholic and Protestant, Sydney and Melbourne, new and old homelands, the conflicts of war abroad and race at home, the importance of technology, the recognition of our Aboriginal past and Native Title, the successes and failures of the nation.

For this enlarged edition, Blainey has rewritten or expanded on various episodes and themes, making changes to almost every page. He has described significant events and trends of the early-20th century. A final chapter summarises key factors that shaped and still shape this country's history.

©2009 Geoffrey Blainey (P)2010 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"Part of Blainey’s magic is that his words float off the page. Here, too, are the puzzles, oddities and off-beat comparisons of his restless, quirky intelligence, constantly astonished and endlessly engaging." ( The Age)

What listeners say about A Shorter History of Australia

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Just couldn't stand the paternalism

Would you try another book from Geoffrey Blainey and/or Humphrey Bower?

No.

Would you ever listen to anything by Geoffrey Blainey again?

No. I was really interested in getting an overview of Australian history. The author indicates that he's attempting to be objective and balanced about the tensions between Aborigines and white Australians, but the paternalism is so thick I struggled to get through the first couple of hours and then gave up. For example the author states that establishing large areas of protected land for the indigenous people of Australia never would have worked because inevitably they would have been drawn away by the bright lights of the big city. Really? Really? That's so brutal, I'm not even really sure how to respond to that. There are many, many other examples. I think the author is genuinely trying to be balanced, he's just coming from a perspective that is already so far gone it's not much help.

3 people found this helpful

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Good!

As expected the book is not detailed, but it covers the history of Australia in a amazing way. I deeply recommend it for everyone interested in Australia.

2 people found this helpful

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Enjoyable chronology of the history of Australia

What did you love best about A Shorter History of Australia?

Covered a wide range of key events in Australia's history. The book was easy listening and well written for those interested in a brief history lesson.

What other book might you compare A Shorter History of Australia to and why?

Hard to compare because it deals with many subjects in a short space of time. My feeling would be that if you enjoyed this book you would also enjoy books like Kakoda and even Mathew Flinder's Cat (fiction)

What about Humphrey Bower’s performance did you like?

Always a great Narrator for any Australian story - didn't disappoint.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

2 people found this helpful

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Horrible Book

What would have made A Shorter History of Australia better?

This book begins with a disclaimer from the author stating his book was a collection of his own opinions about Australia. Anyone reading this book for historical facts needs to find another resource. It irritated me when he writes Australians thought this and that. He does not back up any of his statements with statistics. He is also rather paternal and imperialistic when writing about the Aboriginal Indigenous Australians. Be warned this book might make you mad too! I have traveled to Australia and truly wanted to increase my knowledge.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Informative

This book helps you to understand today's Australia by describing where we have come from. I found it fascinating. Well worth a listen.

2 people found this helpful

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GoodBook for someone planning a trip to Australia

The book starts at the ice age and continues through 2009. It does a nice job of concise presentation of climactic, cultural, environmental, political, International, etc. information about the country, its people, and its history. Having read it will make my trip there much more interesting because I have a flavor of what has gone before, Who the people in the country are. I was relieved the book did not go into exhaustive detail about anything.

1 person found this helpful

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Too short

Not very interesting. Too short to get into anything in depth, leaving just an overly simple overview making it impossible to get very interested in anything.

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Excellent history of Australia, very entertaining, authentic

As an American with Australian heritage I wanted to learn more about my fathers homeland. This book filled in the gaps of learning and explained more about my grandparents life and times in Tumut. Narrator is easy to listen to, optimistic, clear, and very authentic. Accurate, non biased, and includes information that other authors may sweep under the carpet. Very entertaining, wish it was longer. Definitely recommend if interested in history, or Australia.

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We’ve forgotten where we are from

This is well written, well narrated, and entertaining. This information used to be a art of daily life. Now nobody knows any of it. This is a great overview of many parts of our history we either gloss over or have never known.

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Good overview, not perfect

Felt very clear when the author was born as the keen observation became personal quibbles

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-08-21

Perfect short history

Logically structured but not without interesting unpredicatable facts, appropriately personal, balanced and comprehensive cover and you get the feeling the author is Australian but at the same time fair and impartial. The reading performance was imaculate, well-paced and clear as a bell.

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  • Anthony
  • 02-09-14

Readable overview of Australia's development

Interesting overview of Australia's development starting with Aboriginal settlement and adaptation to the land over 40,000 years ago and ending with Kevin Rudd's first stint as Prime Minister of Australia. Despite numerous developments since then, the bulk of this history - surveying such issues as colonisation, (somewhat limited) discussion of dispossession and violence against the Aboriginal peoples, participation in the first and second world wars, immigration, agricultural and natural resource exploitation and development, infrastructure development, urbanisation, sport as core to Australia's identity.

Blainey does a good job of surveying the big picture issues, illustrated at times with more detailed and personal stories, and general insights regarding politics, economics and history. As somebody who grew up overseas (and didn't learn much about Australian history at any earlier stage of my education) I found this informative, well written, engaging, and a good overview.

Blainey's work has been critiqued within the so-called "history wars" - reflecting the debates and contests about the degree of violence and dispossession suffered by Australia's first peoples. Blainey seeks to present a "balanced account" - but this just touches on the degree of contestation and dispossession that occurred and the current challenges within Australia. I would have been interested to hear still more on the important land rights decisions of Australian courts, the ongoing challenges to Australia's economy, the problems inherent in climate change denial, the harms of alcohol despite it being so throughly intertwined with day to day life and its narrative in Australia.

Well worth a listen!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-11-22

Colonial and anachronistic

I found this a difficult listen and cannot recommend it.

The repeated use of anachronistic language (“the Aborigines”) to refer to First Nations peoples and the glossing over of invasion (“arrival”), oppression and genocide makes this book one to avoid for me.

There is a limited acknowledgement of injustice and suffering but the development of the railways gets more attention than the genocidal violence of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The author suggests that Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander peoples are to blame for their own suffering due to a lack of desire to assimilate to the culture of the occupier. The devastating impact of invasion on First Nations peoples is framed as being occasionally bad but generally positive and benevolently well-meaning.

His approach is colonial and old fashioned, reminding me of old newsreels and cheerleading books about the British Empire. He speaks of “pioneers” and “brave explorers”.

Environmental destruction is celebrated as a triumph of industriousness and enterprise with little reflection on its impact. The introduction of invasive species and its devastating impact on Australia’s biodiversity gets too little attention. Environmentalism is equated with communism. The climate emergency is described as an “episode”.

He is an apologist for racism describing the “essential” White Australia policy, and critical of the welfare state. Joh Bjelke-Petersen is described as “dynamic”.

A writer can express their views but the book then ceases to be a scholarly work on history and becomes a platform for his personal political views. He makes repeated sweeping and unsubstantiated claims about the views of Australians and presents opinion as fact.

The bicentennial is presented as being an uncontroversial moment of unity and pride.

LGBTQ Australians get one and half sentences and are otherwise ignored. Women don’t get much more attention and individuals are rarely named, all too often being merely mothers and wives.

A final point: Britain and British are almost always rejected in favour of England and English. “The reigning English monarch” for example. This is simply incorrect as there has not been a reigning English monarch since 1707.

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  • G
  • 08-11-21

Shorter History of Australia

Having visited Australia many times frm the UK as my son lives there, I really wanted to know more of its history. This book was very good and easy to understand. Thoroughly enjoy it! Well written & read. Very informative. Well worth listening to for most regular visitors!!!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-01-17

Enlighenting and entertaining

Very interesting book. Puts into perspective how much the isolation and climate of Australia played in determining its history. Good use of anecdotes to keep it light in parts. Disappointed that the Stolen Generation was not mentioned

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  • Gillian
  • 04-29-16

Australian History

Geoffrey Blainey has the ability to write history in such a manner that entices the reader to be be completely absorbed and interested in his knowledge. He gives a comprehensive overview of Australian history from the First Fleet, Aborigines through until 2009.
The book revived school lessons learned of long ago and I learnt new facts and gained answers of unanswered questions.
It also will help me with researching my family history.
For anyone wanting an overview of Australian history, I would strongly recommend this book.
The narrator, Humphrey Bower immediately envelops the reader into the story with his very pleasant voice.

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  • Daryl
  • 04-21-22

What happens when two ancient civilisations collid

This was an outstanding audiobook and a great introduction to Australian history for those that do not know much about it. It is also an essential book, along with The Fatal Shore, for young Australians when they are of school age. My ancestors came to this country in the first fleet in chains and this book supports a lot of the information we have received from them through the generations. Written by acclaimed historian Geoffrey Blainey.

Before I go into the substance of the book itself there is a need to address what Aussies call "the history wars" of the early 2000s.

This was a disgusting shred of our history, the impacts of which continue into today. It was kicked off by a national inquiry into aboriginal children removed from their parents.

It was an outpouring of hatred by the southeast political left of my country, supported by state media and captured institutions. During the process, many good people were slandered unfairly and had their professional reputations destroyed. The conclusions of this movement appealed to the hate-filled and unintellectual forebears of today's "woke".

That said, it draws out the history of colonisation as well as the inevitable clashes between the new settlers and the aboriginal people. In particular, was the final acknowledgement that the convicts of this era were the last authorised slaves of the British Empire. People were treated so badly that a visiting Anglican Priest from England had two of them throw themselves on their knees in front of him begging for execution. Convict John Frost called it "

It also tracks honestly the conflict and slaughter of aboriginal people, in particular throughout the Queensland frontiers. It also goes a long way to explain the vast gulf between the two peoples. In particular, like most Australian historians, Blainey is in awe of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that had survived for at least 37k years since separating from the Papuans.

Truth has been buried in the pursuit of Australian history, and gems like this are both hard to find and very, very valuable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ryan LASAKI
  • 05-18-17

My fisrt book on Au history. loved the book.

I moved to Au in 2005 and was always eager to find books on Au history.
this was a perfect summary and i enjoyed learning about the highlights of this country's story. recommend it to all migrants like myself.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tony Elsmore
  • 09-21-22

Well read and a great listen

I enjoyed the audio book and learnt a lot about things that should be better known by all Australians.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-22-21

mosty here say information

to much possibly information not suitable for academic purposes. Information reusable what one would read on some internet sight Wikipedia. has he ever spoken to indigenous people of reliable sources with.... probably this probably that probably something, probably may have not defined as was, has been, most likely or good

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  • Donna Barker
  • 03-11-21

Should be on every modern history teacher's list

Bower does a great job narrating this short history of modern Australia. Wish it could be on the required reading lists for all Australian school students.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-20-20

strong resource

Countless omissions on Indiginous history throughout, author could benefit from referencing Dark Emu and The Biggest Estate.
otherwise comprehensive summation

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  • Customer Chris
  • 01-04-20

Easy to follow summary of Australian history

A pretty upfront and easy to follow summary of the forces that shaped Australia. highly recommend!

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  • Alison
  • 09-24-19

exceptional

concise but thorough. a very fair and balanced history without obvious bias. easy listening. I thoroughly recommend this book to all Australians who want to know how we became the nation we are.

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  • Ryan
  • 09-11-18

Good summary wish I got more detail

For a new migrant to Australia while this gives you a great summary of the country’s history, it leaves out some very important events and details that I would have loved to know more about. Like the stolen generations, the industries other than mining and wool that have had an influence. Barely a line or two about the history of the sporting teams which is such a big part of the country’s culture. Nothing mentioned about the famous criminals like Chopper Reid, Milat, the bike gangs and mafia that is so intrinsic to our culture.

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  • Auzzie
  • 08-15-18

What a history, is that of Australia.

As above. Read very well. A lot covered
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.