Winner, 2008 Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History
Winner, First Book of History Award, 2008 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards
Winner, 2008 Australian History Association's W.K. Hancock prize
Shortlisted, 2008 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature (non-fiction)
Shortlisted, Victorian Community History Awards
The Lamb Enters the Dreaming traces the life of Nathanael Pepper of the Wotjobaluk people, who was born as the first pastoralists were driving cattle and sheep into Victoria’s Wimmera region. In their wake came Christian missionaries, who were just as hostile to the settlers’ violence as they were to the traditional beliefs of Aboriginal people. Nevertheless, Pepper converted to Christianity in 1860. The extraordinary story of Pepper’s conversion, and his subsequent attempts to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable, reveals much about the deeper symbolic and moral forces at work in this collision of cultures.
Robert Kenny challenges many orthodoxies in this profound reconsideration of how indigenous people and Europeans thought about each other. He traces Aboriginal attempts to accommodate the ‘people of the sheep’ and their pastoralist totem, Jesus, while arguing that it was European animals more than the settlers themselves that ruptured the Dreaming. On the European side, Kenny argues, increasingly powerful scientific and philosophical challenges undermined evangelical Christianity’s belief that all humanity was of ‘One Blood’. And behind it all lurked the spectre of slavery and the question of the moral order of imperialism.
Brilliantly original in conception, and written with a rare lucidity and lightness of touch, The Lamb Enters the Dreaming is a detailed and sensitive exploration of a life, a meditation on the matter of culture and conversion, and a major reappraisal of the relations between Aboriginal and European societies in the first decades of contact in southern Australia.
About the Author
Robert Kenny is currently an ARC Research Fellow in the School of Historical and European Studies, La Trobe University, and the RCM Fellow at the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Previously he was Peter Blazey Fellow at the Australian Centre, University of Melbourne. He has published poetry and fiction, as well as articles on literature, religious history, and the history of science. He has a PhD in History from La Trobe University.
"Elegant and engaging, wide-ranging and wise." --John Hirst
"Sparkles with wit and intelligence . . . the scholarship is most impressive." --Henry Reynolds, historian and author, Fate of a Free People
"Elegantly written and powerfully argued. . . . The Lamb Enters the Dreaming provides a new way of looking at a crucial aspect of Australian colonial history in a way that is truly original, surprising, and profound." --The judges of the 2008 Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History
"A startling new history . . . an immense contribution to reconciliation consciousness in our 21st-century Australia." --Rhys Isaac, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790