MACINNIS, Peter The Big Book of Australian History NLA Pub, 2013 292pp $39.95 ISBN 9780642278326 SCIS 1627840
It was never going to be possible to provide an in depth history of Australia from ancient times to the present in one volume. However, what this volume does do is to supply a broad history of Australia and its culture, which is more than sufficient to provide an overview and to encourage interested readers to read and research further any areas they find of particular interest. It can be dipped into or read from cover to cover. The written component of the text is well constructed and provides a balanced view of many of the complexities of our history, and the language is readily accessible to young readers. The illustrations provide an interesting collection of maps, historical photos and documents, some of which will give rise to memories for many readers.
Additionally, most pages have a small section that looks like it has been torn from a notebook or a separate block of blue that contains interesting and sometimes ironic snippets of information that may not be well known. For example, ‘Very few Aboriginal people were harmed by those cyclones [such as Darwin 1974]because they knew when dangerous storms were coming and where the best places were to seek shelter.’
One of the most interesting aspects of the text is the last section, where it encourages readers to engage with the thought that they too are a part of history. The book is well indexed and acknowledges the source of all illustrations. Suitable for 10-16 years and readers, who want a real taste of Australian history.
reviewed by Sue Clancy