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

Mark Hearn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Across three key texts, 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, for him, 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 historicising 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 offers insights into the relationship between past and present described in historical narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-362
Number of pages16
JournalHistory Australia: journal of the Australian Historical Association
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • late modernity
  • narrative constructivism
  • presentism
  • historicism


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