Bill Gammage

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Bill Gammage
William Leonard Gammage

1942 (age 80–81)
AwardsManning Clark Bicentennial History Award (1988)
Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (1995)
Queensland Premier's History Book Award (1999)
Member of the Order of Australia (2005)
Manning Clark House National Cultural Award (2011)
Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History (2012)
Victorian Premier's Prize for Nonfiction (2012)
Queensland Literary Awards History Book Award (2012)
Academic background
Alma materAustralian National University
ThesisThe Broken Years: A Study of the Diaries and Letters of Australian Soldiers in the Great War, 1914–18 (1970)
Doctoral advisorBruce Kent
InfluencesCharles Bean
Academic work
InstitutionsAustralian National University (1997–03)
University of Adelaide (1977–96)
University of Papua New Guinea (1972–76)
Main interestsAustralian history
Notable worksThe Broken Years (1974)
The Biggest Estate on Earth (2011)

William Leonard Gammage AM, FASSA (born 1942) is an Australian academic historian, adjunct professor and senior research fellow at the Humanities Research Centre of the Australian National University (ANU). Gammage was born in Orange, New South Wales, went to Wagga Wagga High School and then to ANU.[1] He was on the faculty of the University of Papua New Guinea and the University of Adelaide. He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences and deputy chair of the National Museum of Australia.

History studies[edit]

World War I[edit]

Gammage is best known for his book The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War,[2] which is based on his PhD thesis written while at the Australian National University. It was first published in 1974, and re-printed in 1975, 1980, 1981 (the year in which Peter Weir's film, Gallipoli came out), 1985 and 1990. The study revives the tradition of C. E. W. Bean, Australia's official historian of World War I, who focused his narrative on the men in the line rather than the strategies of generals.[citation needed] Gammage corresponded with 272 Great War veterans, and consulted the personal records of another 728, mostly at the Australian War Memorial.

Gammage has written several other books about the experiences of soldiers in World War I, including three definitive books about Australian soldiers in the war. He also co-edited the Australians 1938 volume of the Bicentennial History of Australia (1988).[citation needed]

Aboriginal peoples' planning and management of Australia[edit]

In 1998, Gammage joined the Humanities Research Centre at the ANU as a senior research fellow for the Australian Research Council, working on the history of Aboriginal land management.[3] His scope was cross-disciplinary, working "across fields as disparate as history, anthropology and botany".

In the subsequent 13-year period Gammage researched and wrote the book The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia,[4] released in October 2011. It won the 2012 Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History in the Prime Minister's Literary Awards,[5] the 2011 Manning Clark House National Cultural Awards in the individual category, was shortlisted for the 2012 Kay Daniels Award,[6] the History Book Award of the 2012 Queensland Literary Awards[7] and awarded the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards overall Victorian Prize for Literature on top of the non-fiction category prize.[8][9]


As a historical adviser, Gammage has worked on many documentaries and his writing is cited as an authoritative source on Australia's participation in World War I.[10] For the film Gallipoli directed by Peter Weir, Gammage was employed as the military advisor[11] and he worked on the text that David Williamson turned into the screen play of the film.

Local history of Narrandera[edit]

Gammage produced a historical study of the Shire of Narrandera.[12] Gammage was made a freeman of Narrandera Shire Council in 1987.[1]

Adelaide ANZAC Day commentary[edit]

Gammage was part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Adelaide ANZAC Day Commemorative March commentary team until 2015.

Awards and nominations[edit]


Bruce Pascoe has acknowledged the work done by Gammage (and also Rupert Gerritsen), which especially influenced his 2014 award-winning book describing early Aboriginal settlements and agriculture, Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?.[17][18]



  • The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War. Australia: Penguin. 1974. ISBN 978-0-85179-699-4.
  • with Harris, David; Cole, Michael; Piggott, Reg (1976). An Australian in the First World War. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-21018-8.
  • Man and land: some remarks on European ideas and the Australian environment. Publication no. 64 (booklet). Stirling memorial lecture; (no. 4. Broadcast from Radio 5UV, the University of Adelaide on 13 December 1978). Adelaide, South Australia: Dept. of Continuing Education, University of Adelaide. 1979. ISBN 978-0-85578-017-3.
  • with Williamson, David (1981). The Story of Gallipoli. Ringwood, Vic: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-006105-5.
  • with Markus, Andrew (1982). All that dirt: aborigines 1938. Canberra: History Project, Inc., Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-949776-08-2.
  • Narrandera Shire. Narrandera: Bill Gammage for the Narrandera Shire Council. 1986. OCLC 63179965.
  • with Spearritt, Peter (1987). Australians, 1938. New York: Broadway; Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates. ISBN 978-0-949288-21-9.
  • Headon, David John; Warden, James; Gammage, Bill (1994). Crown or country: the traditions of Australian republicanism. St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-86373-599-5.
  • The Sky Travellers: Journeys in New Guinea 1938–1939. Melbourne: Melbourne University. 1998. ISBN 978-0-522-84827-4.
  • Australia under Aboriginal management (booklet). Barry Andrews memorial lecture. Vol. 15. Canberra, ACT: School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University College, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy – "in association with the Barry Andrews Memorial Trust and the National Library of Australia". 2003. ISBN 978-0-73170-388-3.
  • Gammage, Bill; Ebooks Corporation (2011), The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-74237-748-3

Journal articles[edit]

  • (1991) ANZAC's influence on Turkey and Australia. Journal of the Australian War Memorial 18; Presented as a keynote address at the 1990 Australian War Memorial history conference
  • "Police and power in the pre‐war Papua New Guinea highlands". The Journal of Pacific History. 31 (2): 162–177. 1996. doi:10.1080/00223349608572816. ISSN 0022-3344.
  • "John Black's 'Anatomy of a hanging: Malignant homicidal sorcery in the upper Markham valley, New Guinea. An exploratory enquiry'". The Journal of Pacific History. 33 (2): 225–234. 1998. doi:10.1080/00223349808572872. ISSN 0022-3344.
  • "Aboriginal Dreaming paths and trading routes: the colonisation of the Australian economic landscape – By Dale Kerwin [Book Review]". The Economic History Review. 64 (4): 1419–1420. October 2011. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.2011.00611_29.x. ISSN 1468-0289.

Book chapters[edit]

Other work[edit]

  • "Sir John Monash : a military review" (Melbourne University, 1974)
  • "The story of Gallipoli" / text by Bill Gammage ; screenplay by David Williamson ; preface by Peter Weir. Ringwood, Vic. : Penguin Australia 1981) Released August 1981 as "Gallipoli.", dir. by Peter Weir
  • "The Achievement of the Australian Aborigines", The Australian and New Zealand Studies Project (Text of an Australian and New Zealand Studies Occasional Lecture given at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on Wednesday, 9 December 1992), Occasional paper no.1, Manoa, Honolulu: School of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Studies, University of Hawaii, 1992, p. 9


  1. ^ a b HRC webmaster (11 June 2008). "ANU – Fellows – Gammage- HRC". Director, Humanities Research Centre. Archived from the original on 22 April 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b "PM's Award 2012 Shortlist". 30 May 2012. Archived from the original on 27 October 2012.
  3. ^ Glen St John Barclay, Caroline Turner (2004). A history of the first 30 years of the HRC at The Australian National University. Humanities Research Centre, ANU. ISBN 9780975122983. Archived from the original on 22 June 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  4. ^ Greg Muller, Michael MacKenzie (11 October 2011). "How Aborigines planned and managed Australia". Bush Telegraph. Event occurs at 11:40 am (31:30 minutes). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Radio National. Radio interview audio. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2012 winners announced". 23 July 2012. Archived from the original on 28 April 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b The Biggest Estate on Earth Archived 14 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Allen & Unwin
  7. ^ a b Queensland Literary Awards Media Release – Tuesday evening 4 September – Literary Awards winners announced! Archived 23 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2012 (The Wheeler Centre/ Books, Writing, Ideas)
  9. ^ a b Aboriginal fire sparks winning book The Age (newspaper, Melbourne)
  10. ^ "Australia in World War One By Dr Peter Stanley". 1 March 2002.
  11. ^ "Murdock University film database". 30 June 2007. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009.
  12. ^ "History of the Narrandera Shire". 16 May 2005. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006.
  13. ^ "Queensland Premier's Literary Awards". 2006. Archived from the original on 13 August 2007.
  14. ^ "Member of the Order of Australia nomination". 13 June 2005.
  15. ^ Gammage, Bill; Watermark Literary Society; National Library of Australia (2010), Fire in 1788: The closest ally [sound recording]: the first Eric Rolls memorial lecture given by Bill Gammage at the National Library of Australia on 20 October 2010
  16. ^ "ACT Book of the Year 2012 Winner". ACT Book of the Year. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  17. ^ Guilliatt, Richard (25 May 2019). "Turning history on its head". The Australian. Weekend Australian Magazine. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  18. ^ Hughes-D'Aeth, Tony (15 June 2018). "Friday essay: Dark Emu and the blindness of Australian agriculture". The Conversation. Retrieved 17 November 2019.

External links[edit]