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Australia: A Biography of a Nation

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Part history, part travelogue, part memoir, this is the inspiring story of how a one-time British colony, settled by only two kinds of citizens - convicts and jailers - turned itself into a proud, prosperous and confident country, the greatest sporting nation on earth, where the citizens of its high-leisure cities enjoy a lifestyle that is the envy of the world.

Through the
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 28th 2000 by Random House UK (first published 2000)
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Phillip Knightley's Australia: A Biography of a Nation is a hard book to categorize. Parts of it read like dry academic text, parts are very anecdotal, a whole chapter sings the praises of Australian sports teams, and in places the author reminisces about his childhood. Sometimes I was bored (1970s political machinations don't interest me much), and other times I was absorbed (yes, explain to me how in 30 years "White Australia" turned into a multicultural society?). Of all the books I've read i ...more
Žilvinas Zubė
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Įsitraukimas ir susidomėjimas, skaitant šią knygą, banguoja. Papasakojama tarsi daug įdomių dalykų: santykių kaita su Didžiąja Britanija, aborigenų diskriminavimas, naikininas ir vėliau įvykęs atsiprašymas, taikyta Baltosios Australijos imigracinė politika, australų dalyvavimas I ir II pasauliniuose karuose, kasdienis narkotikų vartojimas XX amžiuje, besitęsęs svarstymas, ar Australija turi būti anglo, ar multi bei išskirtiniai vietinių charakterių bruožai leidę šaliai tapti išskirtine valstybe. ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have been in love with the idea of Australia since I was a small child and one of those magazines like Ranger Rick had an article about the wave rocks near Perth.
Then I picked up this book in 2002/2003 and read the first chapters. A government that took care of its people?! Health care that is fiscally manageable for the average person. I was in love. (What’s the term for someone in love with Australia? There are anglophiles and francophiles...)
However I did not get beyond chapter 3 all those
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know anything about Australian history before reading this book, except maybe that it was discovered by a British guy a bunch of centuries ago, so I was uncertain where to start from. This was a very good choice: I think it's almost impossible to squeeze in many more facts in only 350 pages, and yet it doesn't feel like everything is just crammed in. The author manages to take his space to digress on some subjects and he is also capable of being humorous from time to time -- which, in m ...more
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book on the flight to Australia when I was visiting the country for the first time. It helped me get a nice overview of the country and its current cultural context.

The book starts, perhaps fittingly so, with the arrival of Europeans in Australia. And indeed,despite all its efforts to integrate its non-white citizens (the book provides interesting details about the non-aboriginal groups in this category), the country is dominated by Caucasian (English, predominantly) culture. This d
Zac Hale
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A succinct but diligent discussion of the history of one of the youngest demographics in the world. I see Australia with greater complexity now with its hypocrisies and atrocities but also its conscience and soul, ultimately a story of collective coming of age.
Felt like history done well and scratched a particular itch that had been living in some deep antechamber close to my heart for a while. Just for a second in this deep English midnight I hear the kookaburras call.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'd recommend this if you really want to know Australian history (up to 2001 - I'll need to go look for something more recent now). Looks drier than it is! But if you're not that bothered it's probably too much to wade through. ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit of a slow start at first, but overall, an excellent overview of the country and a perfect way to prepare you for a visit.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Some interesting chapters but a bit of a slog; more military history than I’d expected.
Will JH
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent introduction to Australia’s history, focusing on the years since Federation.
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It's interesting and I learnt a lot. I'd've liked one or two photos but overall it's a really good read. ...more
Sally Edsall
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: australian, history
Not bad; a few inaccuracies.
Dagmar Belesova
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I knew very little about Australian history (especially modern history) and I found this book a revelation. It is written in a very engaging prose and it is fascinating to learn about all these events that shaped the Australia of today. A biography is a fitting choice of a word for a title - he portrays Australia almost as a character, with a unique personality and character, which develops throughout the book. It makes you want to go to country, just to engage with it and discover to what exten ...more
Stan Bebbington
This is not a guide book, it is a highly personal history of the country, affectionate but honest. It covers all the salient features of Australia's climb to nationhood via a strongly polarised series of political, social and industrial developments. Some of which are quite shocking revelations of exploitation and corruption. More Deadwood Gulch than Pugin's Neogothic. It is well written and a good read. ...more
May 20, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I ordered this for background reading for my University course I was expecting a historical text. Whilst it did go into more historical events later on, it read more like a novel than non-fiction and it was not as detailed as I would have liked. For easy access Australian history pick this up.
Oct 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
An excellent, if non-academic, overview of Australian history and identity since the nineteenth century, with an excellent focus on Aboriginal affairs, and on the evolution of the country's relationship with the United Kingdom. Good for anyone who likes popular history. ...more
Roger Norman
Apr 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy reading, plenty of anecdotes, excellent on the beginnings of Oz, and very good on the world wars, vietnam and lots of other stuff, including Gough Whitlam. Gets a bit bogged down towards the end. Sympathetic to the Aussies but not craven.
Jun 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
I'm so excited to go to Australia! ...more
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My least enjoyed book of the year. Reads like a novel, when I hoped for a historical book about Australia.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
It was interesting for the majority of the book, but my interested waned in the last few chapters...
Kersti Anear
May 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Aussies
Recommended to Kersti by: Christian Saemann
An amazing eye-opener of a book which has left me questioning everything I thought I knew about my homeland. Highly recommended for all Aussies.
Katie Greywood
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Feb 15, 2016
Tim Donovan
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Dec 09, 2016
Matt Loten
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Jun 18, 2018
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Jul 31, 2007
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Stephen Hinks
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Jan 15, 2020
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Jan 23, 2012
Tasha Hooper
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Aug 14, 2018
Sandra Menant
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Feb 13, 2017
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Phillip Knightley was a special correspondent for The Sunday Times for 20 years (1965-85) and one of the leaders of its Insight investigative team. He was twice named Journalist of the Year (1980 and 1988) in the British Press Awards. He and John Pilger are the only journalists ever to have won it twice.

He was also Granada Reporter of the Year (1980), Colour Magazine Writer of the Year (1982), hol

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