The bitter tragedies of Bennelong and Grant: colonial cryptoplots

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This paper examines how the selective application of particular narrative structures and plot details has influenced the telling of two Australian Indigenous historical biographies. In particular, it describes how colonial agendas and perspectives have been mobilised through these biographies and continue to exert on the present. Specifically, this paper investigates popular historical biographies concerning the Indigenous men Woollarawarre Bennelong (c.1764–1813) and Douglas Grant (c.1885–1951) and reflects on connections between the ways they have been narratively constructed. This paper also notes that the biographies of these two men have been emplotted and encrypted in sociopolitically motivated ways. I use the term ‘cryptoplot’ to describe how these processes and motivations are narratively configured and disguised and to acknowledge how forms of encrypted plot are experienced as having ‘truth’ value.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12620
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalHistory compass
Issue number8
Early online date23 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • cryptoplot
  • documentary film
  • Australian history
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • screenwriting


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