Biography Workshop

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Mitchener, Rutherford, and the Brodies: Telling big history with genealogies of people and places.

Nick Brodie in an ANU alumni and the author of Kin: A Real People's History of Our Nation (2015), 1787: The Lost Chapters of Australia's Beginnings (2016), and The Vandemonian War, forthcoming this August. He edited and commentated the letters of George Martindale in Dodging the Devil: Letters from the Front (2016), and has authored academic papers on topics ranging from antique poor boxes to colonial manuscripts.

'When asked about my speciality I often respond that I'm a methodologist, because history is something that you do as well as the things that happened. Exploring that tension, this paper reflects on some of the biographical threads that I have followed over the past few years while trying to make methodological history accessible to a broad public audience - especially by using people to revise master narratives, rather than situating people in master narratives. Epic inter-generational novels like James A. Mitchener's The Source and Edward Rutherford's Sarum did so much to configure my historical sensibilities that they have informed my research agendas, especially in Kin. Similarly, in 1787 I deliberately used several 'characters' to re-tell some our ostensibly best-known and most-rehearsed stories, locating the interpretative relationship between primary evidence and meta-narrative at the surface of historical writing - rather than leaving the manuscripts 'behind-the-scenes' as with much traditional history-telling.'