A single Australia? Alan Atkinson's narrative construction of late modernity

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Across three key texts - The Commonwealth of Speech; a scholarly article, ‘Federation, Democracy and the Struggle against a Single Australia’, and in Nation, the third volume of The Europeans in Australia, the historian Alan Atkinson has projected an unease with twenty-first century Australia into the past development of the Australian nation. Atkinson traces a ‘singularity’ from the ‘…age of Australian Federation…fixed on the Centre as the pivot of a new national domain’. By the early twenty-first century the nation had become an all-consuming focus of identity, degraded by globalisation. Atkinson’s ‘single Australia’ is a claim with significant implications for the historiography of the emerging Australian Commonwealth and historicizing the nature of late modern Australia; Atkinson’s focus on late modernity addresses a theme developed in international scholarship but one largely absent in Australian historiography. Assessing Atkinson’s narrative construction of singularity also offers insights into the relationship between past and present described in historical narratives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory Australia: journal of the Australian Historical Association
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Sep 2021


  • late modernity
  • narrative constructivism
  • presentism
  • historicism


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