Mark McKenna

Mark McKenna is a professor at the University of Sydney. His books include An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark.

Articles by this author

Image of Alfred Deakin
Judith Brett’s ‘The Enigmatic Mr Deakin’ is a skilful portrait of Australia’s second prime minister
Success dogged him
“Writing biography,” as Judith Brett confides in the opening pages of The Enigmatic Mr Deakin (Text; $49.99), “is an invasive business, and perilous”. Sifting through the “...
Image of Julie Bishop
What does the deluge of political biography and memoir say about politicians and readers?
The character business
In October 1964, Richard Crossman, a senior minister in Harold Wilson’s newly elected Labour government, was struggling to adjust to his life in Whitehall: “My Minister’s room is...
Cover of Unnecessary Wars
NewSouth Publishing; $29.99
‘Unnecessary Wars’ by Henry Reynolds
Despite the flood of war commemoration in recent years, the Boer War (1899–1902) has barely registered in our nation’s consciousness. This invisibility is certainly not due to a...
Talk of stripping citizenship is just one example of Tony Abbott’s alarmist rhetoric
Citizenship and its discontents
One week after Tony Abbott was elected in September 2013, the “possum-infested” Lodge was undergoing renovation and Australia’s new prime minister was looking for temporary...
Blackfellas' Point: One decade later
It is now more than twenty years since I first saw the land that I would later come to know as ‘Blackfellas’ Point’. What began as a retreat from Sydney – a remote ‘bush block’ on...
Australian History in 7 Questions cover
Black Inc.; $24.99
‘Australian History in 7 Questions’ by John Hirst
As an Australian schoolboy in the 1950s, John Hirst was taught “British history, geography and poetry” and sang ‘God Save the Queen’ at assembly. “I never heard of Curtin,” he...
Detail from St George and the Dragon (circa 1435), Rogier van der Weyden
Tony Abbott's aggressive monarchism
Knights and the old republic
As you enter the sandstone Tudor Gothic of the University of Sydney’s quadrangle from the city end, you pass through an archway over which hangs a large wooden honour roll...
ASIO photo of Gary Foley with Black Panther Denis Walker. Courtesy of Haydn Keenan
Documentary series charts the history of Australia’s intelligence-gathering operations
ASIO surveillance in ‘Persons of Interest’
It rises five storeys above Canberra’s Parkes Way, barely 200 metres from Lake Burley Griffin: a curved wall of glass surrounded by a chain-wire fence crowned with barbed wire....
Canberra, ca. 1915. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia
The nation’s capital turns 100
Growing pains
From the air, it looks more like a vast constellation of discrete suburbs than a capital city. Arterial roads cut through sparsely treed hills and bare paddocks burnt straw-brown...
Image from ‘The Last Diggers’ by Ross Coulthart. Courtesy of HarperCollins.
Why do Australians lust for heroic war stories?
Lest We Inflate
It began in the mid to late 1990s and erupted in the wake of September 11. Walk into any bookstore and dozens of war histories jostle for attention. The array of titles includes...
Jean Sibelius in Vienna, late 1880s. © Bettmann/Corbis
How Jean Sibelius ran out of notes
Who Stopped the Music
Finland: January 1939. A jet-black limousine ploughs its way along the driveway that leads from Jean Sibelius’ house. In the half-light of a Helsinki winter, the branches of the...
A nation's state
On the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin, along the promenade directly in front of the National Library, a series of stone plaques, erected in 2006, commemorates every...
The strange history of Manning Clark
Being there
Among the portraits and photographs that hang in the living room of Manning Clark's former home in Tasmania Circle, Canberra, there is a pencil sketch by Charles Blackman,...