Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers

Re-imagining a Nation: The Australian Dictionary of Biography Online


  • Paul Longley Arthur University of Western Sydney



life, narrative, biography, nation, digital


This essay investigates how the digital medium has recently enabled radical
changes in the ways that national biography can be generated and engaged
with. It takes the position that national biography, whether or not it sets out to
do so, reflects how a nation views itself. The Australian Dictionary of Biography
(ADB) has been produced continuously for more than 50 years, and has cumulatively generated a story of a nation. The nature of that collective narrative, however, is not easy to discover. Now, as a result of the ADB’s recent adoption of digital formats, the potential for analysis of the biographies it contains has expanded exponentially, offering unprecedented research opportunities for investigating in new ways how the idea of nation itself has evolved in Australia.

This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing in May 2014 and publidhed on 25 June 2015,

Author Biography

Paul Longley Arthur, University of Western Sydney

Paul Arthur is Professor and Chair in Digital Humanities at the University of Western Sydney. He was previously Deputy Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies, a joint-funded special initiative of the European Commission and the Australian National University. From 2010-13 he was Deputy Director of the National Centre of Biography, ANU, and Deputy General Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.





Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers