Mark McKenna

STOP PRESS: 4 September 2017: The State Library of NSW (SLNSW) has announced the winners of the 2017 NSW Premier’s History Awards. The winning work is:

Australian History Prize ($15,000): From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories (Mark McKenna, MUP)
General History Prize ($15,000)

Mark McKenna: From the Edge (cover image)
March 1797. Ninety Mile Beach, Victoria. Five British sailors and twelve Bengali seamen swim ashore after their longboat is ripped apart in a storm. The British penal colony at Port Jackson is 700 kilometres to the north, their fellow-survivors from the wreck of the Sydney Cove stranded far to the south on a tiny island in Bass Strait. To rescue them and save their own lives, they have no alternative. They set out to walk to Sydney. What follows is one of Australia’s greatest survival stories and cross-cultural encounters.

In From the Edge, award-winning historian Mark McKenna uncovers the places and histories that Australians so often fail to see. Like the largely forgotten story of the sailors’ walk in 1797, these remarkable histories — the founding of a ‘new Singapore’ in West Arnhem Land in the 1840s, the site of Australia’s largest industrial development project in the Pilbara and its extraordinary Indigenous rock art, and James Cook’s meeting with Aboriginal people at Cooktown in 1770 — lie on the edge of the continent and the edge of national consciousness. Retracing their steps, McKenna explores the central drama of Australian history: the encounter between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians — each altered irrevocably by the other — and offers a new understanding of the country and its people.

This is a book that will haunt your memory and ignite your dreams of what Australia once was and might yet become.

Iain McCalman

A rediscovery of history which offers possibilities of national understanding and rebirth.

Noel Pearson


‘This big, dramatic and intellectually enthralling book will surely become a landmark in Australian biography. Mark McKenna… cross-questions the reputation of the teacher, the family man, the drinker and the historian; as well as Clark’s extraordinary later incarnations as prophet, political Cassandra, bush mountebank and genuine visionary. He… finally establishes Manning Clark as one of the key figures in the new assertion of Australian cultural identity in the mid-twentieth century, alongside Patrick White and Sidney Nolan.’  — Richard Holmes

Mark McKenna’s biography of historian Manning Clark was published by Melbourne University Press: An Eye for Eternity: The life of Manning Clark.

Currently a Research Fellow at the Australian National University, Mark McKenna is an outstanding historian, and author of The Captive Republic (Cambridge University Press, 1996) and Looking For Blackfellas’ Point: An Australian History of Place (University of NSW Press, 2002) which won the Australian Cultural Studies Prize 2002; the NSW Premier’s Award for Non-Fiction 2003; and the NSW Premier’s Award (Book of the Year), 2003.