The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History


Shortlist year: 2019

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: NewSouth Publishing

In this surprising and revelatory history of the Bible in Australia, Meredith Lake gets under the skin of a text that's been read, wrestled with, preached and tattooed, and believed to be everything from a resented imposition to the very 'Word of God'. The Bible in Australia explores how, the Bible has played a contested but defining role in this country,  in the hands of Bible-bashers, immigrants, suffragists, evangelists, unionists, writers, artists and Indigenous Australians.

About the author

 Meredith Lake

Meredith Lake

Meredith Lake is a historian of religion, society and culture in Australia, with a PhD from the University of Sydney. She is the author of a high schoolers' guide to The Bible Down Under (2016), and a study in social welfare from the Great Depression to the present, Faith in Action: Hammond Care (UNSW Press, 2013). She has also written articles on Christianity and colonialism, including a prize-winning piece in the Journal of Religious History. She is a highly regarded speaker on religion and culture.

She was awarded the Australian History Prize in the 2019 NSW Premier's History Awards for The Bible in Australia.

Judges’ comments

It is often popularly assumed that Australia is a secular society, even as we debate the merits of religious freedom and the right to worship. The Bible in Australia presents, for the first time, a thorough examination of the broad cultural, political, and historical context that Christianity and the Bible have played in Australia since 1788. This is a vast and sweeping book that covers ground from the religiosity of new immigrants to the impact of the Bible, via missions and missionaries, on the world's oldest living culture. This is a highly original look at our past; a highly readable narrative that reminds contemporary Australians of the forces that shaped our culture. Lake is comprehensive in her analysis of the impact of the Bible on Indigenous culture, its role in frontier conflict, and its cultural impact on 'free' settlers, and reform movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Australia's shift towards secularism since the First World War and how the Bible has lost influence and favour is documented in meticulous detail. The lively, energetic and highly accessible writing covers a range of topics, including popular culture, music, unions and political activism. The Bible in Australia adds an extra dimension to our understanding of Australian religious and cultural history and addresses a significant gap in our collective knowledge.