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Bennelong & Phillip: A History Unravelled

Scribner Australia

Bennelong & Phillip: A History Unravelled


The first joint biography of Bennelong and Governor Arthur Phillip, two pivotal figures in Australian history – the colonised and coloniser – and a bold and innovative new portrait of both.

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

Fullagar’s account is also the first full biography of Bennelong of any kind and it challenges many misconceptions, among them 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 empire.

To present this history afresh, Bennelong & Phillip relates 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 professor of history at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, in 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.

‘At a moment of profound uncertainty for future relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Bennelong and Phillip is essential reading.’ – Mark McKenna, author of Return to Uluru

‘Kate Fullagar has achieved something astonishing … This is reconciled history at its very best.’ – Distinguished Professor Lynette Russell AM

‘With insight and empathy, Kate Fullagar adds new depth and meaning to this old story of nation-building and imperial dispossession.’ – Bill Gammage AM, author of The Biggest Estate on Earth

Bennelong and Phillip is the foundation story of us – the story of Country – the story of our nation.’ – John Paul Janke, co-host of NITV's The Point

‘an important book for our current time … A fantastic book and a challenging one.’ – Books+Publishing

‘Contact history of a wonderfully vivid and interesting kind.’ – Alan Atkinson, author of Elizabeth & John: The Macarthurs of Elizabeth Farm

Kate Fullagar
Published October 2023
320 pages 
234mm x 153mm
ISBN  9781761108174

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