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The first joint biography of Bennelong and Governor Arthur Phillip, two pivotal figures in Australian history – the colonised and the coloniser.

Book cover: Bennelong & Phillip: a history unravelled

'Phillip, the colony’s first governor, and Bennelong, the Yiyura leader. The pair have come to represent the conflict that flared and has never settled.'

Bennelong and Phillip were leaders of two sides in the first encounters between Britain and Indigenous Australians.

Author Kate Fullagar’s account is the first full biography of Bennelong of any kind, and it challenges many misconceptions, for example that he became alienated from his people and that Phillip was a paragon of Enlightenment benevolence. It tells the story of the men’s marriages, including Bennelong’s best-known wife Barangaroo and Phillip’s unusual domestic arrangements, and places the period in the context of the Aboriginal world and the demands of the British empire.

To present this history afresh, Bennelong & Phillip relays events in reverse, moving beyond the limitations of typical Western ways of writing about the past, which have long privileged the coloniser over the colonised. Bennelong’s world was hardly linear at all, and in Fullagar’s approach, his and Phillip’s histories now share an equally unfamiliar framing.

About the author

Kate Fullagar is a professor of history at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Australian Catholic University and co-editor of the journal History Australia. Her book The Warrior, the Voyager and the Artist won the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction at the 2021 NSW Premier’s Awards.

Organised in partnership with Constant Reader Bookshop.