Macquarie University
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Packaging the past for children: Australian historical novels and picture books for children since 1945

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posted on 2022-03-28, 23:06 authored by Kylie-Ann Flack
Historians have considered deeply the nature of historical fiction, and the fictional nature of history, but children's historical fiction has received little of their attention to date. In approaching Australian children's historical novels and picture books as a subject for historical analysis, I interrogate the specific cultural, social, political and intellectual contexts of these texts since 1945. I explore how the texts may be considered historical, rather than literary projects, projects that can work to either contest or reaffirm contemporaneous national historical narratives. Fictional representations of the past are an identifiable sub-genre within Australian children's literature, with an estimated 160 historical novels and picture books, on Australian subjects by Australian authors, published since 2000. Building upon a foundation that emerged slowly in the decades following World War Two, contemporary Australian authors are creating fictional narratives for children that encompass an increasingly diverse range of historical subjects and that push at the boundaries of the historical fiction genre. There have also been profound changes in the presentation and marketing of historical novels and picture books, changes that offer an opportunity to understand more about uses of the past in the context of conceptions of childhood in Australian society. My thesis traces the volume and nature of historical novels and picture books published since 1945, explores representations of war, Indigenous history, and emotion through close readings of selected texts, and considers ideas of spectatorship and audience through analyzing the results of a pilot study involving interviews with fourteen children. In doing so, I contribute to conversations about uses of the past beyond the academy and methodologies for researching popular/fictional historiography. I also demonstrate that fictional representations of Australia's past created for children are worthy of historians' attention.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1: 'Fictional historiography': the research landscape -- Chapter 2: Placing Australian children's historical fiction within the ambit of 'fictional historiography' - the research methodology -- Chapter 3: 'Offered to children' - the emergence of Australian children's literature -- Chapter 4: Overview of the corpus, 1945-2015: historical fiction as a subject for history -- Chapter 5: Historical fiction as history-making: how fictional narrative elements inflect the historical project -- Chapter 6: Packaging the past for children: experimentation and promotion -- Chapter 7: Representations of war in children's historical fiction since 2000 -- Chapter 8: The 'whole camp screamed in anger and dismay': emotions in children's historical fiction -- Chapter 9: Children's voices in historiographical research -- Conclusion -- References -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 313-358

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Arts

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Michelle Arrow

Additional Supervisor 1

Hsu-Ming Teo


Copyright Kylie-Ann Flack 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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