Review Blog

Dec 11 2018

The upside-down history of down under by Alison Lloyd

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Ill. by Terry Denton. Penguin Random House Australia, 2018. ISBN 9780143788669.
(Age: 9+) Alison Lloyd has undertaken the daunting task of writing an overview of 200 million years of Australian history from Gondwana to Federation. She has also played on the concept of the continent 'down-under' to highlight what she calls the 'ups and downs, ins and outs of Australia's story.'
Within a broadly chronological narrative, the author has outlined the major themes of Australia's past. These range from the continental drift and the arrival of Aboriginal people, to European exploration, the convict system, frontier conflict, pastoralism, the gold rushes, women's rights, trade unions and the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia. The challenge of briefly outlining these complex themes has been largely overcome by the inclusion of intriguing details, quizzes, timelines, quotes from historical documents and nineteenth-century pictures. Terry Denton's entertaining pen-and-ink illustrations complement the humorous headings, references to modern culture and colloquial writing style. Lloyd has sought advice from librarians and Indigenous advisors, and sourced information and ideas from the works of professional historians. A detailed table of contents compensates for the publication of the index on the author's website rather than in the book. A bibliography and notes for teachers can also be found online.
Some young people may not be aware of the formerly common reference to Australia as the country 'down-under'. The author explains this Eurocentric concept, then uses it to make two points about Australian history. The first is that it has both positive and negative aspects. The second, more contentious, suggestion is that the country formed from colonies is still in the process of turning itself 'the right way up.'
Alison Lloyd's The upside-down history of down under can take readers on a historical journey that is informative, engaging and thought-provoking.
Elizabeth Bor

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