10 Great Books: Geoffrey Blainey,
The Tyranny of Distance (1966)

This month, Professor Tom Griffiths (ANU) presents on an iconic Australian text, The Tyranny of Distance by Geoffrey Blainey.

Associate Professor Tim Lynch, convener of 10 Great Books, will introduce you to our speakers each month and facilitate audience questions following their presentation.

Professor Tom Griffith’s masterclass on Geoffrey Blainey’s The Tyranny of Distance
An audience Q&A with Professor Tom Griffith and Associate Professor Tim Lynch

A history of transport that became so much more

Geoffrey Blainey is one of Australia’s most celebrated - and controversial - historians. He is renowned as a master of narrative history who can evoke the material reality of the past with vivid detail and telling metaphors. The Tyranny of Distance, published in 1966, became one of the most influential and popular Australian histories in the twentieth century, selling almost 200,000 copies and entering our language.

It began as a history of transport and then became so much more: a new interpretation of the British colonisation of Australia, a meditation on 'how distance shaped Australia's history', and a ripping yarn.

We will look at the historical landscape into which Blainey wrote The Tyranny of Distance and consider why it made such an impact. And we will endeavour to see the book in the context of the author’s whole oeuvre: what did he write next, and how was Australian history about to change?

Extra resources

Listen to an interview with Geoffrey Blainey on Radio National's Late Night Live about his recent memoir.

Professor Tom Griffiths
Professor Tom Griffiths

About Professor Tom Griffiths

Professor Tom Griffiths is Emeritus Professor of History at the Australian National University and completed his undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Melbourne and his PhD at Monash.

His books and essays, which have won prizes in literature, history, science, politics and journalism, include Hunters and Collectors (1996), Forests of Ash: An Environmental History (2001), Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica (2007) and The Art of Time Travel: Historians and their Craft (2016).

He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, an Officer of the Order of Australia, and Chair of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

10 Great Books: a Melbourne Masterclass

The Faculty of Arts proudly presents the book club to end all book clubs: 10 Great Books, a Melbourne Masterclass. Each month, hear leading academics and experts give their take on a text that has shaped the way we see the world.

We ask the big questions about how our selected books captured the zeitgeist and shifted the culture. The ten diverse texts will become our window into politics, art, love, death, and everything in between. Now in its seventh year, 10 Great Books has traversed the broad history of the written word, exploring great novels, non-fiction, plays, poetry, pamphlets and more.

Visit the 10 Great Books website for this year's program and speaker information.

Learn more