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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

On women's history (starring Jenny Blackford)

Over at Bookish Dreaming, Gillian Polack asks the question, "[H]ow do we make sure that the history we tell isn't only about a small group of successful blokes?" She interviews an American historian - Deborah Swiss - writing about the social history of Australia and an Australian storyteller - yes, Jenny - who has published a novella rich in the look and feel of daily life in ancient Greece.

I sense, almost between the lines, some concern on Polack's part about how rigorous Swiss's approach really was. The latter's book is supposed to be a work of straight history, though written for a popular audience, but its methodology and conclusions may be a little dubious around the edges - or so Polack appears to hint. In any event, she comments, near the end:

Underlying both women’s work is a realisation of the importance of women in the histories they write. In both books, women are the major drivers and the most important people. This is the bottom line. Two quite different works, in two quite different genres and the big question that we were asking in the late seventies and early eighties has to change. We have women’s history. It’s not consistent yet, and our understanding of women in history is still very patchy, but that’s an issue for another day.

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