Professor Angela Woollacott

BA (ANU); BA (Hons) Adelaide; MA, California, Santa Barbara; PhD, California, Santa Barbara
Manning Clark Professor of History
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Australian History (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History) 210303
  • Gender Specific Studies 169901
  • Biography 210304
  • Historical Studies 2103

Research interests

Australian history; decolonisation and postcolonial history; biography; political history and human rights; women's and gender history; transnational history; settler colonialism.


Angela Woollacott is the Manning Clark Professor of History. From 2004 to 2009 she was Professor of Modern History at Macquarie University in Sydney. Prior to that she was a Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Her areas of research, research supervision and teaching include Australian history; British Empire, colonialism, postcolonial and decolonization history; political history; women's and gender history; biography; modernity and transnational histories.

Professor Woollacott is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and a former president of the Australian Historical Association. She currently serves on the editorial boards of three journals. She has been a visiting professor at Oberlin College; a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College, the University of Melbourne, the University of Adelaide, the University of California, Berkeley, Flinders University and the University of Oxford; and in 2002 she was a Visiting Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre at ANU.

Researcher's projects

Current major project

I am grateful to the Australian Research Council for the Discovery grant 2023-2025 funding my current research. The project is titled 'Challenging colonialism: Australians who helped us to embrace human equality'.

'Challenging colonialism' traces how ideas of human rights and equality gained ground in Australia in the 1940s-1960s. It uses group biography to discover how ten influential thinkers and activists opposed social structures based on racial inequality. While we have made great strides in prohibiting discrimination, our society still bears legacies of colonialism. This project creates new knowledge about how key progress occurred -- knowledge that will be publicly shared to enhance Australians’ understanding of our national development and the links between intellectual and social change. Its innovation includes tracing the connections among its diverse subjects: how their interactions brought together the realms of internationalism, organisation, advocacy, literature and activism to change general thinking. It will be globally significant in tracing how challenges to colonialism and racial inequality circulated and became accepted in a settler-state. It is methodologically innovative in using group biography to follow how ideas spread outwards through networks from the ten individuals. Outcomes will include new knowledge about how ideas of human rights and equality spread from activists and groups to mainstream Australia. Benefits include new insight into how ideas of equality eroded cultural acceptance of White Australia and Australians reconceptualised their society as diverse.

Most recent monograph

Don Dunstan: The visionary politician who changed Australia (Allen and Unwin, 2019)

My biography of Don Dunstan, the transformative Premier of South Australia in the 1960s-70s who was a major political figure nationally and internationally, was published as Don Dunstan: The visionary politician who changed Australia by Allen and Unwin in 2019, and was shortlisted for the 2020 Magarey Medal for Biography. It is the first comprehensive, scholarly biography of Dunstan, and has been widely and positively reviewed in the Australian media. My research and writing were supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant, which I gratefully acknowledge.


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

Return to top

Updated:  15 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers