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The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft

by Tom Griffiths

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523400,885 (4.2)1
'No matter how practised we are at history, it always humbles us. No matter how often we visit the past, it always surprises us. The art of time travel is to maintain critical poise and grace in this dizzy space.' In this landmark book, eminent historian and award-winning author Tom Griffiths explores the craft of discipline and imagination that is history. Through portraits of fourteen historians, including Inga Clendinnen, Judith Wright, Geoffrey Blainey and Henry Reynolds, Griffiths traces how a body of work is formed out of a lifelong dialogue between past evidence and present experience. With meticulous research and glowing prose, he shows how our understanding of the past has evolved, and what this changing history reveals about us. Passionate and elegant,The Art of Time Travelconjures fresh insights into the history of Australia and renews our sense of the historian's craft.… (more)
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This was an encouraging preparation for my (anticipated) return to studying history in 2017. Griffiths surveys the history of how Australians write and tell the history of this land, not just in the work of professional historians but also in fiction, poetry and archaeology. Woven through the scholarly narrative are Griffiths’ recollections of his own training in the Melbourne and ANU history schools. His commitment to the twentieth-century French study of the longue durée, histories spanning centuries, leads him to argue for a long view of Australian history from the Pleistocene era to “the unfolding present” of human-inflicted climate change. ( )
  claudinec | Jun 14, 2017 |
I don’t really know what I was expecting – I only chased up this book because it was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards – but The Art of Time Travel, Historians and the Craft is such a wonderful surprise! To describe it as a collection of portraits of fourteen Australian historians is underwhelming to say the least, yet it turns out to be a captivating book which charmed me from start to finish.

The very first historian chosen is Eleanor Dark. Yes, the author of the much-loved novel that many Australians read at school, The Timeless Land. The choice of a novelist to lead the fray is emblematic of Tom Griffith’s approach: though Griffiths is himself a professor of history, he’s not hidebound by a formal academic definition of what historians might be, or where they might find their material, or what they do with it. So the chapter about Eleanor Dark is a wonderful portrait of a novelist whose research and ways of interpreting it told Australians an important story about who we are as a nation. This chapter kept making me want to retrieve my Eleanor Dark novels from the shelves and read them all over again, with fresh insights.

Curiously, Griffiths held me captive again with his next entry, Keith Hancock. I’d heard of him, but I’d never read his stuff the way I’ve read Eric Rolls, Geoffrey Blainey, Henry Reynolds and Inga Clendinnen – all of whom get their own chapter too. So it was from Griffiths that I learned that ‘If there were a Nobel Prize for History,’ observed Stuart Macintyre in 2010, ‘Hancock would surely have won it.’ It was Hancock’s pioneering work of environmental history, Discovering Monaro (1972) that provoked this accolade, and by Griffith’s account of it, it’s one I want to read.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/05/15/the-art-of-time-travel-historians-and-their-... ( )
  anzlitlovers | May 14, 2017 |
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'No matter how practised we are at history, it always humbles us. No matter how often we visit the past, it always surprises us. The art of time travel is to maintain critical poise and grace in this dizzy space.' In this landmark book, eminent historian and award-winning author Tom Griffiths explores the craft of discipline and imagination that is history. Through portraits of fourteen historians, including Inga Clendinnen, Judith Wright, Geoffrey Blainey and Henry Reynolds, Griffiths traces how a body of work is formed out of a lifelong dialogue between past evidence and present experience. With meticulous research and glowing prose, he shows how our understanding of the past has evolved, and what this changing history reveals about us. Passionate and elegant,The Art of Time Travelconjures fresh insights into the history of Australia and renews our sense of the historian's craft.

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