School of Culture and Communication - Research Publications
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ItemThe marks of want and careLee, Jenny (McPhee-Gribble, 1988)It is not true that time heals all wounds. Some wounds linger on until the wounded die and their pain is forgotten. A generation of Australians harboured searing memories of the 1890s depression - of hunger, cold, bewilderment, humiliation and fear. But they are gone now, and their memories with them. If the depression is remembered at all, it is for the bank crashes of 1893, which produced panic among the propertied class. The working people and the unemployed who felt the chill most severely left few written records. Here, as in so many other areas of Australian life, the privilege of being remembered, being included in ‘history’, has been open to only a few. But why would anyone want to re-live the sufferings of a dead generation? Perhaps because so many of the institutions we take for granted began as attempts to do something about the effects of the 1890s crisis. Federation, state welfare, arbitration and the rise of the Labor Party all date back to that time. The crisis also ushered in profound changes in family life. As earlier chapters have discussed, the 1890s marked the beginning of the trend towards smaller families, with all that it implies for the way that people organize their lives. If the memory of the 1890s has gone, its legacy is still with us.
ItemDivers observations on Australians: a historical libraryLee, Jenny ( 1988)Now we confront the five reference volumes of Australians: A Historical Library. These books’ very appearance suggests authority: they are weighty, dignified; they fall open without disintegrating; their typography is conservative but highly legible. They’re real books, as opposed to the cheap paperbacks that have perforce become our staple diet. At the same time, they are pitched towards a non-specialist audience. The language is fairly straightforward and they are heavily illustrated, with generous use of colour. Given the ‘slice’ approach adopted in other volumes of this ‘library’, these reference volumes bear a particular load: they have to provide a readily accessible ‘quick fix’ of basic information that will at least fill in the topography of the rest of the cake. To be blunt, taken as a whole they don’t discharge the responsibility very well. While they contain a mass of useful information and embody a lot of good work by a lot of good historians, as a set of reference volumes they have many inadequacies and inconsistencies.