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Bennelong and Phillip

A History Unravelled

About The Book

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.

Australian Book Review Books of the Year 2023

Sydney Morning Herald Best Reads of the Year for 2023

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

Supplied by 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.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (October 4, 2023)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781761108181

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Raves and Reviews

'In this significant, entwined biography of both men, Kate Fullagar dispels the myths surrounding Bennelong and reframes the context of Phillip’s life ... The innovative structure, fluent prose and illuminating analysis make this book an absorbing read ... Not only an important book but a timely one.'

Sydney Morning Herald

‘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.’


‘Contact history of a wonderfully vivid and interesting kind.’

Alan Atkinson, author of Elizabeth & John: The Macarthurs of Elizabeth Farm

'This is an important, if not unparalleled work of Australian historiography. It is the sort of book that should receive awards.'

The Newtown Review of Books

‘Kate Fullagar’s important new work … brings a creative and original lens to a foundational relationship … Fullagar explores how the two men’s shared history did indeed shape Australia’s, but not simply in the way foundational narratives have tended to represent them … Bennelong & Phillip gives us a new, original lens onto this origin story … And we’re offered a much richer, nuanced account of Bennelong, who Fullagar reads in context and on Country … She also writes beautifully and clearly.’

The Conversation

‘Rich and exciting history telling … brave, audacious … has the reader thinking deeply about the meaning of history and the role it plays in our lives … Fullagar’s position is ethically scrupulous, and highly objective in research and exposition … I recommend this as a book that carries us much further on the journey to a reconciled future – and a delicious read to boot.’

Victoria Grieves Williams, The Australian

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