Vale Emeritus Professor Ken Inglis AO

4 December 2017

The Australian National University (ANU) is deeply saddened by the death of leading Australian historian Emeritus Professor Ken Inglis AO.

Professor Inglis passed away peacefully on December 1 surrounded by his family.

Well known for his wide-ranging, insightful and elegant analyses of Australian social and cultural history, Professor Inglis's prodigious work ethic generated hundreds of book chapters, journal and newspaper articles as well as books on key aspects of Australia's past.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt led the tributes.

"Ken was a distinguished and much loved historian who spent the major part of his career at ANU," Professor Schmidt said.

"Before joining ANU, he was instrumental in the development of the University of Papua New Guinea, first as the inaugural Professor of History, and then as its second Vice-Chancellor.

"On behalf of the University, I offer our sincere condolences to Ken's family, particularly his children and step-children Jamie, Kate, and Louise Inglis and Deb, Judy and John Henry, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Dean of the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Rae Frances, said while his exceptional contribution to history would be missed, it was his personal attributes that endeared him to colleagues and friends.

"He will be remembered by many of us not just for his brilliance as a journalist and historian but also for his wisdom, wit, warmth and generosity as a colleague, mentor and friend," Professor Frances said.

"It is hard to pick just a few highlights of his career, but his magisterial book, Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape stands out as the culmination of a career's reflection on the enduring meaning of the First World War to Australians, building on earlier studies of Australian Colonists, a biography of official war historian, Charles Bean, and a study of the Australian role in the war in Sudan.

"His role in leading the innovative multi-volume, multi-contributor Bicentennial History of Australia also represents a major contribution to Australian historiography. As well, his two volumes on the ABC illuminate another key national cultural institution."

Professor Inglis completed his MA thesis in the early 1950s, which was later published as Hospital and Community: A History of the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He went on to complete his doctorate at Oxford University, which was published as Churches and the Working Classes in Victorian England.

His work came to prominence with the publication of The Stuart Case, the story of a young Aboriginal man, Rupert Max Stuart, who was tried for murder in 1959.

After his time at the University of Papua New Guinea, Ken returned to ANU in 1975, where he remained until his retirement in 1994. For a time he was the W. K. Hancock Professor of History and held the distinguished Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University. 

At the time of his death, he was working, with Seumas Spark and Jay Winter, on the second book in a two-volume history of internees who arrived in Australia on the Dunera and Queen Mary during the Second World War. The first volume will be published by Monash University Publishing in 2018.