Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 3, 2020

Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 3, 2020

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The articles in this issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History consider subjects who have lived across and between national and internal Australian boundaries, and the authors have thus been compelled to address the methodological and theoretical problems of mobility. Kate Bagnall addresses the seemingly insurmountable problem of writing about Chinese women who settled in Australia in the second half of the twentieth century. Contrasting with the dearth of information on Chinese women immigrants to colonial New South Wales, Jackie Dickenson’s chapter on Hong Kong–based merchant and trader Melbourne-born Elma Kelly (1895–1974) benefits from an abundance of documentation, both in the realm of the personal and official. In her article on the Corney family in the aftermath of World War I, Alexandra McKinnon considers the record of loss and sorrow preserved in the archives of the Australian War Memorial. Very different methodological questions are explored by Suzanne Robinson in her reflections on writing a biography of the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912–90). As a feminist biographer, Robinson had to face a most ‘troublesome question’ of whether her subject’s considerable imperfections, which became evident during research, risked undermining her status as a composer, particularly one whose reputation was yet to be fully established.

A different form of methodological question is posed by Pat Buckridge in his article on three generations of Macdougall men, each of whom became journalists—Dugald (1833–79), who also excelled in business and politics, Dugald the younger (1872–1947), and James (1903–95). The question Buckridge considers is whether his subjects can ‘usefully be considered as a grouped biographical entity signifying more than the sum of its parts, which is to say more than the three separate lives’. By contrast, Peter Crabb’s article on the colonial goldfields reporter John Augustus Hux (1826–64) relates the story of a single figure who, having made connections in his English homeland that would serve him well in Australia, provided eyewitness accounts of a number of significant goldfields in New South Wales, which were widely read in the colony and thus helped to form popular images of the industry. Finally, in a departure from the theme of mobility characterising the other contributions, Nichola Garvey documents her experiences of working with the Western Australian iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest to research and write his biography. In what was conceived by both the author and the subject as an ‘authorised biography’, Garvey’s article raises some fundamental questions about biographical writing of living persons, including the utility and pitfalls of what she calls ‘expressivist anthropology’, as well as the scope of authorisation in biographical writing.


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ISSN (online):
ANU Press
Australian Journal of Biography and History
Arts & Humanities: Biography & Autobiography, History

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