Publication Details

Melleuish, G. (2017). E G Whitlam: Reclaiming the initiative in Australian History. In J. Hocking (Ed.), Making Modern Australia: The Whitlam Government's 21st Century Agenda (pp. 308-335). Clayton, Australia: Monash University Publishing. http://www.publishing.monash.edu.au/books/mma-9781925495188.html


How are we to understand the place of the Whitlam government in Australian history? My starting point is an observation that history is not only contingent but our understanding of it is nominalist. That is to say that it does not have a necessary, or natural, structure. We make, and re-make, narratives according to the way in which we arrange and re-arrange what we know about what has happened in the past. Human beings crave a satisfactory narrative to explain the past as a means of understanding the present but, in so doing, they usually have to make use of the imagination which can be a misleading, indeed, treacherous, friend.