Books for teaching History – Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution

Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution

By Peter FitzSimons

Front cover of Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution

Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution
Published By : William Heinemann, North Sydney, N.S.W. Australia, 2012

The trouble with the Eureka story is that it is very involved and complex.  As Education officers at Sovereign Hill, we well know how difficult it is to maintain the interest of an audience when we try to explain the details leading to the bloody storming of the stockade. There are so many important twists and turns that the story teller often falls in a repeating pattern of “and then …. and then… and then…”

Not so Peter FitzSimons in his recent book Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution

This book is very well researched and covers all the events of the saga in surprising detail. But it is the obvious enthusiasm of the author that holds the reader’s attention. This is not a dry historical paper but a rollicking story. It has been said that you shouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story but FitzSimons has been able to sew a lot of  facts together in a compelling way.  He often uses the first person “Gather round lads and look at this!” (p327), and the present tense “There is revolution in the air” (p339) to make us feel part of the narrative.  He also injects personality into the main characters, “

“Up on the stage, Father Smyth looks worried, knowing far better than his superiors how hot the mood on the diggings is…” (p361)

“Lalor invites Carboni to speak, and he does not have to be asked twice” (p366)

This book is not for primary school students but it is a must for teachers of secondary students. FitzSimons’ attention to detail provides a deep appreciation of the complex series of events leading up to Australia’s biggest rebellion.  He is therefore able to explain how the diggers became so indignant about the way they were being treated and why the authorities felt they had to take control.  This book feels like historical fiction but it is not, it is very well researched and this reader often found himself looking up the footnotes to find out the origin of small details.

But why is it the unfinished revolution? Well, you will either have to read it or join our after school Webinar The Importance of Narrative in History Teaching with Peter FitzSimons and Doug Bradby on 2 May to find out.

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