RE: 2015 Ernest Scott Prize winners announced

The Faculty of Arts, in conjunction with The Australian Historical Association, is excited to announce the joint winners of the 2015 Ernest Scott Prize are Alan Atkinson and Tom Brooking.

Alan Atkinson, The Europeans in Australia: Volume 3: Nation, UNSW Press, 2014.

In the third and final volume of his history of The Europeans in Australia, Alan Atkinson pursues his inquiry into relationships between community and communication in Australia during the period between 1870 and the end of the First World War. The idea of ‘Australia’ nourished the hopes of those who judged their progress in moral or spiritual terms as it took shape in ways political, especially in the process of federation. Showing how maps made people think differently, reading lessons changed accents and telephones connected voices, Atkinson’s work is akin to a ‘bottom up’ Australian version of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. His great skill in exposing and reflecting on different forms of Australian conversation is to invite us into the realms by which Australians understood themselves and the times in which they lived. He achieves intimacy with his many characters by giving them their voices and by standing, as an author, in a close and sympathetic listening position. The result is a rich, and often audible, vista of humanity.

Tom Brooking, Richard Seddon, King of God’s Own: The Life and Times of New Zealand’s Longest-Serving Prime Minister, Penguin Books, Auckland, 2014.

Tom Brooking has produced a handsome, richly illustrated biography of Richard Seddon, New Zealand’s longest-serving Prime Minister (1893-1906) and arguably the country’s greatest leader. Seddon was a defining leader through times of policy reform that did much to define the social contract in New Zealand. He was not always the primary agent of change, and followed slowly rather than led the move towards the vote for women, but his dedication to reducing inequality and building a robust role for the state in this ongoing task was unstinting. One of Seddon’s great strengths was his preparedness to strike out on foot through the electorates, and engage with those who would seek to speak with him. He was a big man, and through the pages of this big, meticulously-researched book (including a rich, 36-page Bibliography) we feel his strides. Seddon was known for his dedication to family. Brooking makes clear, his wife Louisa, Mary Stuart and five other daughters, played important roles in relation to women’s suffrage and other issues. This is a biography fit for the ‘King of God’s Own’.

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