Author(s): Jonathan King
From cyclones to sinking ships, from mine explosions to train crashes, faulty planes and bridge collapses, from the shooting in Port Arthur to the Bali bombing, from floods in the north to bushfires in the south, Australia has not been immune to the fickle finger of fate. No one expects cataclysmic events, but when disaster strikes, life changes in an instant: priorities shift, and often, life is reduced to blood, bone and memory. Historian Jonathan King has meticulously recounted the anatomy of twenty-three Australian disasters, showing us the events and conditions that conspired to their happening. More importantly, he draws out the stories of those Australians whose lives were irrevocably changed, and myriad stories of heroism and bravery. Many of the disasters in this book were caused by human error or negligence. Dreadful as they are, most have led to constructive outcomes, such as tighter gun controls in Australia in the aftermath of the Port Arthur shooting; stricter regulations for air, sea and rail transportation; and safer conditions for all workers. Humane and moving, Great Disasters in Australian History brings forth the everyday dimensions of a disaster to allow us to understand and empathise with the victims and survivors. The book is a small step to helping us remember how much things have changed - and how much we must remain vigilant so that we are not condemned to repeat past mistakes.
After a lifetime bringing history to life through re-enactments, books and films, award-winning Sydney historian and author of 30 books Dr Jonathan King is well placed to present Great Disasters in Australian History, a companion to his bestselling Great Moments in Australian History and Great Battles in Australian History. Dr King's work as a journalist and his experience of live events means he has experienced disasters first-hand. He sailed as part of the First Fleet Expedition of eleven tall ships from London to Sydney for Australia's bicentenary celebrations in 1988; re-enacted the voyage of Columbus to America, Banjo Paterson's 'Waltzing Matilda' and 'Man from Snowy River', the biblical nativity journey of Mary and Joseph through the Holy Land, and Matthew Flinders' circumnavigation of Australia.