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Professor Martin Thomas

Professor Martin Thomas

  • Academics

Co-Director of the Menzies Australia Institute

Professor of History.

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Martin Thomas is multi-award-winning cultural historian and documentary maker, usually based at the Australian National University in Canberra where he is Professor of History. Until the end of 2021, he is working at the Menzies Australia Institute as Co-Director.

Thomas’ work spans landscape and environmental history, exploration and expeditions, history of anthropology, and narratives of cross-cultural encounter. He arrived at King’s after a year in Ireland where he was the visiting Keith Cameron Professor of Australian History at University College Dublin.

Thomas is the author of The Artificial Horizon: Imagining the Blue Mountains (2003) and The Many Worlds of R. H. Mathews: In Search of an Australian Anthropologist (2011), winner of the National Biography Award of Australia. He is editor or co-editor of several volumes on exploration including Exploring the Legacy of the 1948 Arnhem Land Expedition (2011), Expedition into Empire (2015) and Expeditionary Anthropology (2018). As an interviewer for the Oral History and Folklore Collection of the National Library of Australia, he has recorded more than 30 whole-of-life interviews with prominent Australians.

For more than ten years, he has been working with Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land, northern Australia, interpreting historic film and sound recordings with elders. This gave rise to Etched in Bone (2018) a feature documentary film about the theft of human remains by the 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land and their eventual repatriation, which he co-produced and directed in collaboration with Béatrice Bijon.

His current projects include an edited volume for Bloomsbury on the cultural history of exploration in the twentieth century and study of the creative partnership of photographer Axel Poignant and visual anthropologist Roslyn Poignant, an Australian couple who lived much of their lives in London.