New book takes a second look at Australian history

09 November 2022

Australian history has been given a fresh take in a just-launched book titled Australia on the World Stage: History' Politics' and International Relations co-edited by prominent Australian historian Dr Benjamin Jones.

From the complex interactions of First Nations to modern international relations with significant partners and allies' the book examines the forces which have influenced the place now called Australia both historically and today.

Dr Jones said the interdisciplinary work challenges lazy stereotypes that see Australia's international history as fixed and uncontested.

"This book consciously decenters Britain because it is an important part of the Australian story but far from the whole story. Australian history does not begin with 1788'" he explained.

"It begins with an important chapter by Wiradjuri historian Lawrence Bamblett on the Indigenous international relations that took place before Australia was colonised."

He said that although historians have been correcting the record for decades' the idea that Australian history only really starts in the late eighteenth century and that the arrival of the British is the defining moment was taught to generations of school children and is a view expressed by recent prime ministers.

This book argues that First Nations peoples were open' outward-looking and engaged in what we would today call international relations long before colonisation.

"This insightful book opens with the deceptively simple question: 'when and where is Australia?' It challenges the reader to consider the history not only of modern Australia' but of ancient Australia also.

"It also explores the different ways Australia's place in the world has been conceptualised from an outpost of the British empire to part of Asia."

He said the book even questions whether it makes sense to use the name Australia when referring to the continent's ancient past.

Ben's chapter highlights the scale of change to Australia's national identity that took place in the 20th century' shifting from a dominion of empire to an 'almost republic'. He argues that although the language of Britishness has gone' the privileging of Britishness remains.

As one of the country's highly regarded republican movement historians' Dr Jones has researched this topic for the past 15 years and has included his wealth of knowledge on this topic into the pages of this new book.

This is the seventh book Dr Jones has either written or edited and a third book is in production which will focus on Australia's path to becoming a republic' focusing on the 1999 public referendum.

Dr Jones is a senior lecturer and research of history at CQUniversity' a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society' a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Studies Institute' and was recently voted National Secretary of the Australian Historical Association.