Biography Workshop


National Centre of Biography


The Biography Workshop was established by the National Centre of Biography in response to requests by practitioners, students and readers of biography for a forum to discuss a range of methodological issues relating to biography. The group considers recent and long-standing questions about biography.

As Ray Monk and others have pointed out, there is an expanding body of academic literature on biography which asks some of the same questions that Dr Samuel Johnson addressed in his two famous essays on biography Rambler (1750) and Idler (1759):

Is biography fiction?

Who deserves to have a biography written of them?
What details are appropriate to be included in a biography? 

Is it possible to know with certainty the inner life of another?
What are the moral or ethical responsibilities of biographers towards subjects, social sensitivities and the truth?

The Biography Workshop meets at 11 am to about 12.30 pm at the ANU and offers the opportunity for informal and relaxed discussion with some of Australia's best biographers in a stimulating environment.

If you are interested in attending any of the sessions, please contact us at

Workshops Semester 1, 2022

24 February 2022 - Rhys Williams: E.P. Thompson and the Writing of Biography

31 March 2022 - Barbara Minchinton: The Women of Little Lon: biographies of the unknown (Zoom only event)

28 April 2022 - Cathy Perkins: Writing the Shelf Life of Zora Cross

26 May 2022 - Gary Werskey: Falling Short: Learning from My Shortcomings as a Biographer

30 June 2022 - Glenn Mitchell: The Man Billy Hughes Hunted Down: The Curious Case of Francis Hugh Snow, the alleged enemy trader

28 July 2022 - Katie Pickles: Beyond Women’s Suffrage: Writing a New Biography of Kate Sheppard

25 August 2022 - Dean Kotlowski: The Private Lives of Public Figures: The Wendell Willkie-Irita Van Doren Affair and the Responsibilities of a Biographer

29 September 2022 - Eleanor Hogan: Into the Loneliness: The Unholy Alliance of Ernestine Hill and Daisy Bates

27 October 2022 - Jim Davidson: Emperors in Lilliput: Clem Christesen of Meanjin and Stephen Murray-Smith of Overland

24 November 2022 - Filip Slaveski: Defying Stalin/ism in Death – the unlikely case of Oleksandr Shumskyi

Upcoming events

Glen Mitchell: The Man Who Isn't There

11am 30 Jun 2022

Glen Mitchell: The Man Who Isn’t There: The Curious Case of Francis Hugh Snow Francis Hugh Snow made a significant contribution to the development of the...

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Past events

Gary Werskey: Falling Short: Learning from My Shortcomings as a Biographer

26 May 2022

During the past four decades Gary Werskey has written biographies of British left-wing scientists and a forgotten British-Australian artist, as well as family...

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Philip Clarke: Understanding long-run trends in health inequalities using biographical information

20 May 2022

Understanding long-run trends in health inequalities using biographical information: What insight can we gain from politicians? This paper considers data...

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Cathy Perkins: Writing The Shelf Life of Zora Cross

28 Apr 2022

How do the sources determine the nature of a biography? Cathy Perkins will talk about the relationship between the extensive Zora Cross archives and her...

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Barbara Minchinton: The Women of Little Lon

31 Mar 2022

Barbara Minchinton, The Women of Little Lon: Biographies of the Unknown When does a family history become a biography? After establishing the usual births,...

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R.G. Williams: E.P. Thompson and the Writing of Biography

24 Feb 2022

E.P. Thompson (1924-1993) was one of the great historians of the twentieth century and a key figure of the British New Left in the 1950s and 1960s. As the...

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Kiera Lindsey: The Speculative Method

28 Oct 2021

Kiera Lindsey: The Speculative Method. Using Scientific Guesswork and Narrative as Laboratory to 'Re-present' Past Lives What is speculative biography? How...

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Tiffany Shellam: Boongaree, Bundle and Migeo

16 Sep 2021

Boongaree, Bundle and Migeo: Reading Indigenous lives through exploration texts Royal Navy archives have been a site of rich reward for historians keen to...

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Terry Irving: Writing the Biography of Vere Gordon Childe

26 Aug 2021

I think of Marxist biography as an example of Ray Monk’s assertion that biography produces not truth but a way of seeing connections. But how does the...

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Ann-Marie Priest: The Many Voices of Gwen Harwood

29 Jul 2021

Ann-Marie Priest, My Tongue Is my Own: The Many Voices of Gwen Harwood Gwen Harwood was known as the trickster-poet. She was enamoured of masks and disguises...

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Jacqueline Kent: Biography - some things they don't tell you ...

17 Jun 2021

This talk will be in two parts. Drawing on my own experience as a biographer, I’d like to go through some of the pitfalls of researching and writing biography...

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Updated:  12 May 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications