‘Distance and destiny‘, Inside Story, 28 July 2016
Reflection on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Geoffrey Blainey’s The Tyranny of Distance.
The Tyranny of Distance changed our map of the Australian past. It was a bestseller and a mind-changer. Unusually for such a groundbreaking book, it appeared first as a paperback from a new Australian publisher rather than as a hardback from a prestigious university press. It has sold over 180,000 copies and its title has entered the language. Few books on Australia have been as popular and influential.
Davison looks at Blainey’s early books on mining history, at Distance and its themes and critics, and at the differences between Australian then and now. Today we have what Davison calls ‘the paradox of proximity’. One of Davison’s sentences stands out, however: ‘The job of the national historian is to tell us who we are. He therefore concentrates on the parts of the past that anticipate the present.’