The Big Book of Australian History

ISBN 9780642278326, written by Peter Macinnis, first edition released October 1, 2013 by the National Library of Australia.

ISBN 9780642278722, second edition released on May 1 2015 with updated content and some new illustrations.

ISBN 9780642279026, third edition was released in April 2017, once again with updated content and some new illustrations.

a fourth edition is in preparation for release during 2019.

Find it on Amazon (including the e-book version of the first edition, which is interesting as a sign of where e-books may go: I think this one is a true ground-breaker!)

For information from the publisher, see this link to a blurb from the distributor.

bbah-cover-50 (241K) Arrival

This book is written for ages 7 to 12, It will be 288 pages plus end matter, and around 90,000 words in 120 sections

Chapter headings

Here are reduced and deliberately defaced images of three of the spreads friom the first edition, to give you a taste:

bhb-86-87 (388K)

bhb-102-03 (403K)

bhb-140-41 (373K)

And here is a shot, with four copies of the first edition, open at different pages.



From Book Chook:

I know enough of Peter Macinnis to sit up and take notice when a new book of his is published! You may recall my review of Australian Backyard Naturalist. This meticulous researcher and entertaining writer has managed to produce yet another book that’s been selected as a notable book in the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards.

At first, I decided to enjoy The Big Book of Australian History by dipping into it at random, but that didn’t work. Before I knew it, I was caught up in the text, poring over the cleverly and carefully chosen illustrations, and pondering the points made. As I read, I also found within myself a dawning understanding of Australia’s geological significance, a heightened appreciation of Indigenous people’s struggles, and an enhanced perspective on our Australian culture.

I love the way Macinnis gives us an overview of Australian history without sacrificing entertainment in the name of research. He has an ability to dive down rabbit holes and find quirky stories and facts that will delight young readers. Did you know the nickname for Australian megafauna, Bullockornis planei, is the Demon Duck of Doom? Or that Rupert Murdoch’s nickname was ‘the dirty digger’? I also love that I found mention of some of my Australian heroes in the book. Sporting heroes are mentioned, yes, but we also meet Nobel prize winners, scientists and many entertainers - how satisfying to see Gurrumul listed as a Popular Star! Macinnis’ trademark sense of humour is also evident at times - one of the subheadings in the chapter, Voyages of Discovery, is 'James Cook takes a look'.

Macinnis has an easy, conversational style that explains to children without patronising, sharing snippets from the lives of famous and not-so-famous Australians. Kids will be fascinated to discover the background to many controversial issues and how change came about often because of TV - Australians could actually “see” injustices for themselves. I believe The Big Book of Australian History is a must for libraries and homes where knowledge is prized, and people seek to add to their understanding of Australia and its people.

From The Kids' Book Review:

Australia has a big history. A long history. A rich and convoluted history. Making sense of this history for children can be challenging but if anyone can do it well, it's the National Library of Australia.

Award-winning author Peter Macinnis has covered myriad topics in this tome-like book--packed with priceless information on our country's past and its people.

Beginning in ancient Australia and the formation of our landscape, we are taken through the age of the dinosaurs to The Dreaming--a time of land, legend and arguably the oldest surviving culture on earth--that of our Aboriginal (or First) people.

We are then introduced to early explorers, the mapping of Australia and the founding of British colonies, and then taken through the pivotal social and political upheavals and changes of that time, as well as the establishment of our major cities.

Exploration is covered next, with detailed yet clear information that children will fully engage in. Settling the land, the growth of cities, religions, transport and infrastructure, and of course, Federation is also showcased, along with immigration, welfare, Australia's part in the World Wars, and 20th Century advances in science, medicine and the arts that saw our country quickly become a world player.

There is a phenomenal amount of information in this book, with express detail on such issues as the Great Depression, conservation, Aboriginal rights, natural disasters, sporting achievements (of course!), embracing multiculturalism, and much more. Text is well-laid out with breakout blocks that catch the eye and make the content very accessible.

I can't even imagine the time and energy that went into coordinating and producing this book--a shining example of the stunning teamwork at the National Library.

What I love most about the book, beyond its overwhelming content, is its pictorial journey, with pages sharing imagery over the decades--all part of the National Library's impressive image collection. On one side of the page, we may have a portrait of Olympic swimming champion Fanny Durack from 1912, and the other, a modern day photograph of surfboats powering through the water at Bondi.

Strikingly designed and laid out...

From Buzzwords Magazine:

What a fantastic book! And it is indeed a big book encompassing the history of a big country from its very formation to contemporary times.

Written largely in a chronological fashion, Macinnis' informative and child-friendly text charts the course of Australia's pre-history and history. Beginning with the formation of our island continent and mega-fauna, chapters then explore the coming of the first people to Australia and Indigenous culture, early explorers and the founding of the colonies, exploration by Europeans, the gold rushes and the resultant growth of the cities, federation, the Great War and the ANZACs, the Great Depression, World War Two and post-war Australia. There are also thematic chapters on modern times, sport (of course - this is a book about Australia!), disasters, multiculturalism, the arts and controversies, some of which are still lingering and unresolved.

NLA Publishing always draws on the vast archives of the Library and this visual aspect adds so much. Maps, photographs, paintings and objects illustrate Australia's history as much as the text and combines to offer a sumptuous insight to our nation in the past, present and future. Importantly, the book ends with the reminder that everyone contributes to history and there is a call to all of us to make Australia a better place through our actions.

While it was written specifically for young people, all of us will find something in this comprehensive coverage of every aspect of Australian history - the good, the bad and the ugly - and the often conflicting perspectives held. Every home in Australia deserves a copy of this outstanding book. I leave ours on the coffee table and without fail everyone picks it up to peruse the gorgeous glossy pages chock full of Australia's heritage.

From Reading Time:

It was never going to be possible to provide an in depth history of Australia from ancient times to the present in one volume. However, what this volume does do is to supply a broad history of Australia and its culture, which is more than sufficient to provide an overview and to encourage interested readers to read and research further any areas they find of particular interest. It can be dipped into or read from cover to cover. The written component of the text is well constructed and provides a balanced view of many of the complexities of our history, and the language is readily accessible to young readers. The illustrations provide an interesting collection of maps, historical photos and documents, some of which will give rise to memories for many readers.

Additionally, most pages have a small section that looks like it has been torn from a notebook or a separate block of blue that contains interesting and sometimes ironic snippets of information that may not be well known. For example, ‘Very few Aboriginal people were harmed by those cyclones [such as Darwin 1974]because they knew when dangerous storms were coming and where the best places were to seek shelter.’

One of the most interesting aspects of the text is the last section, where it encourages readers to engage with the thought that they too are a part of history. The book is well indexed and acknowledges the source of all illustrations. Suitable for 10-16 years and readers, who want a real taste of Australian history. SC

From Children's Books Daily:

‘The Big Book of Australian History’ uses images from the National Library of Australia collections and has been compiled by the multi-talented and award winning, Peter Macinnis. This book provides an overview of the history of Australia from its earliest geological formations to the present day and was developed with teacher libarians (yay us!) and experts in the field. The contents page and index are comprehensive whilst remaining student friendly and the list of illustrations is a fine example of referencing and provides information on how to view full titles, medium and dimensions through the National Library of Australia website. This is a must have for home, school and library collections and would be suitable from middle primary to lower secondary. This file is

It was created on April 7, 2013, when the page proofs were being checked, and last revised May 20, 2015.

If you email me at macinnis at, you will reach a spam trap, but be read, eventually. If you put my first name in front of that address, you will reach me direct. This low-tech solution is to make email harvesting difficult.

Here is another way: email400 (18K)

The home page of this set is here.

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