Phil Shannon

The Case Against Fragrance
Kate Grenville
Text Publishing, 2017
198 pages

The fragrance industry really gets up Kate Grenville’s nose. 

The Australian novelist has gradually worked out that artificially-scented consumer products, from high-end perfume to toilet cleaner, were the cause of her debilitating headaches and wooziness.

Caught In The Revolution: Petrograd 1917
Helen Rappaport
Windmill Books, 2017
430 pages

In 1916-17, millions of starving Russian workers queued for hours for scarce bread, perished on the eastern front or were left unemployed in a country where the living conditions were as atrocious as the record winter cold.

Lenin on the Train
Catherine Merridale
Allen Lane, 2016, 354 pages

The German “sealed train” that gave Vladimir I Lenin safe passage from exile in Switzerland through wartime Germany to Russia in April 1917, in the aftermath of the overthrow of Russia’s monarchy that had exiled the Russian revolutionary leader, was historically pivotal.

Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr
Lyndsey Jenkins
Biteback Publishing, 2015
282 pages

When Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton was arrested in 1909 for protesting outside British parliament, and went on prison hunger-strike, for demanding women’s right to vote, she was, to prevent an embarrassing political fuss, released early.

This avoided the spectacle of one of Britain’s best-connected aristocrats being subjected to the government’s policy of force-feeding hunger-striking suffragettes.

Eleanor Marx
By Rachel Holmes
Bloomsbury, 2015
508 pages

“Is it not wonderful when you come to look at things squarely in the face, how rarely we seem to practise all the fine things we preach to others?” lamented Eleanor Marx in 1892. 

Karl Marx’s youngest daughter was to be the tragic victim of this truism, as Rachel Holmes explores in her biography that extricates this pioneering revolutionary socialist feminist from the giant shadow of her father.

Nazis In Our Midst: German-Australians, Internment and the Second World War
David Henderson
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2016
197 pages

When World Word II began, Australia’s then Prime Minister Robert Menzies said that it would be “absurd to intern refugees and anti-fascists when they were on the Allies’ side”.

Yet, writes La Trobe University historian, David Henderson, in his case-study history, Nazis in our Midst, this is exactly what happened in Australia during the war.

Australian soldiers during the Boer war.

Unnecessary Wars
Henry Reynolds
Newsouth, 2016
266 pages

Australia’s first war — the Boer War in South Africa, 1899-1902 — notes historian Henry Reynolds in Unnecessary Wars, was closely bound up with the uniting of the six Australian colonies into a single nation within the British empire.

This conjunction of militarism, nationalism and imperialism was ominous. Australia has never broken the habit of being at the military beck and call of its imperial managers.

Ink In Her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer
Sylvia Martin
University of Western Australia Publishing, 2016
328 pages

In 1939, a young Australian woman grabbed the international headlines when she threw red paint onto the doorsteps of 10 Downing Street, whilst distributing leaflets hidden in copies of the Ladies Home Journal.

The action by Aileen Palmer was to protest the blood that then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain had on his hands for selling out Spain and Czechoslovakia to European fascism.

Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files
Edited by Meredith Burgmann
Newsouth, 2014
464 pages, $32.99 (pb)

The only thing worse, notes Meredith Burgmann in Dirty Secrets, than discovering that your personal file held by Australia’s domestic political police, ASIO, is disappointingly thin is to find out that your official subversion rating hasn’t warranted a file at all.

Play On! The Hidden History of Women’s Australian Rules Football
Brunette Lenkić and Rob Hess
Echo Publishing 2016,
324 pages

In a landmark development, the first national women’s Australian Football competition — AFL Women’s — will be launched next February. But a century ago, attitudes to women playing the game were very different.

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