Australians: Eureka to the Diggers

Written by Thomas Keneally
Review by Juliet Waldron

This is the second part of a two-part history of a nation which began as a British colony. Keneally is a writer of world-wide reputation. Every page is packed with information and fascinating stories about people familiar to Australian schoolchildren – but not to me. For Americans, think of our colonial history but with Waltzing Matilda, convicts – and women who could vote twenty years before they could in the US. There was the same brutal treatment of the aboriginal peoples, and influxes of immigrants from all over the British Isles and Europe and every manner of Asian. Keneally’s history tackles everything: drought years, sectarian battles, the growth of industrial cities, the expansion of workers’ rights, the spreading rabbit plague, mingled with sports history, and changes wrought by inventions like refrigeration and aviation. The book, with photos, copious footnotes and end notes, but few useful maps, concludes with the social upheavals caused by the Boer War and Australia’s entry into WWI. A challenging but informing read.