Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Friday, January 04, 2008

High Lean County - the story of the New England Tablelands

Edited by Alan Atkinson, J S (John) Ryan, Iain Davidson and Andrew Piper, High Lean Country: land, people and memory in New England (Allan & Unwin) captures, in the words of the blurb, "the rich history and haunting character" of the New England Tablelands region.

The authors explore how memory - of land, of family, of patterns of life on the other side of the world - has influenced the identity of New England. They also consider how the high country itself has shaped its people and their sense of regional uniqueness.

There are aspects of the book that I disagree with.

Focused on the Tablelands and to a lesser degree the interaction between the Tablelands and the broader state and national world, the book tends to ignore broader regional linkages and is arguably written from what I think of as the "little New England" perspective that came to dominate and indeed blinker Armidale and University of New England thinking from the early 1980s.

I will do a proper analysis of the book at a later point. For the moment I only note that it is well written, contains new insights and is a valuable read for those interested not just in New England but also Australian history in general. For those who are interested, you can read the book minus some pages on Google books.

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