Bleeding Off the Page: A Cultural History of the Political Memoir in Australia

Since the early 1990s, forms of political life writing have proliferated rapidly in Australia. Formerly a rarity, the memoirs and autobiographies of federal Members of Parliament are now a ubiquitous product in national political discourse, and in the local literary marketplace. I note that politicians’ books are a small, though very distinct, sub-set of a much larger modern and global memoir “boom”. But why have there been so many political memoirs and autobiographies in the past three decades? What political and cultural factors have driven the rise of the political memoir boom? What effects have these texts had on the political culture in which they’re published. Drawing on rich archival textual and media archives, as well as nearly fifty new oral history interviews, this thesis locates the modern memoir boom in its cultural, ideological, emotional and commercial contexts. In this paper, I argue that the contemporary political memoir boom in Australia was driven by significant transformations in the established culture of Australian politics from the 1970s onward, rather than by the idiosyncrasies and egotism of individual politicians.

Joshua Black is a PhD candidate in the School of History and National Centre of Biography, ANU. He has published and presented historical research on the history of Australia's political culture in a number of fora and has contributed to public discussion via the Conversation, Inside Story, the Australian Book Review and ABC Radio. During his candidature, Josh has won awards for his scholarship as well as his undergraduate teaching. In 2021, he co-edited a special issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History with Dr Stephen Wilks. He has worked in the field of Higher Education equity and support. He is currently treasurer of the Canberra branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, and the Australian Historical Association’s Postgraduate Representative (2020 - 22).

Zoom Details  
Meeting ID: 891 1777 1744
Password: 439839

Date & time

Wed 23 Mar 2022, 4.15–5.30pm


Zoom and the RSSS Auditorium, Level 1, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton


Joshua Black


School of History


RSSS Administration


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