He coined the phrase ‘tyranny of distance’ which not only entered the language but encapsulated the view that many Australians have of their geographical place in the world. This was the title Geoffrey Blainey gave to a book published in 1966, a date which gives some sense of the length and richness of his contribution to our knowledge of the world and place in it. With over forty published works to his credit, Geoffrey Blainey has at last, in his 90th year, published a memoir titled Before I Forget, covering the first 40 years of his life.
That period includes his teaching of economic history at the University of Melbourne from 1961; his appointment as a professor came in 1968. He was given the chair in history in 1977 and in 1982, made Dean of Melbourne’s Faculty of Arts; there were numerous subsequent academic appointments. But all that, including his involvement with the Australia Council and constitutional matters must wait for a later memoir. Yet he didn’t want to be an academic, rather a writer of history who could make a living from his writing.
For such a mild-mannered man, he has attracted extraordinary animosity from those appalled by his perceived failure to hold to some branch of Marxism. Happily, writing in the SMH, Peter Craven has said: ‘This is a rewarding book that will renew the spirit of everyone who takes the trouble to read it.’ Perfect for this time of contemplation.
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