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Barbara Penny (?–1982)

Canberra historian Mrs Barbara Penny died last Wednesday after a long illness.

As Barbara Atkins, she graduated BA from Melbourne University in 1955 and MA with first-class honours in history in 1962. In 1955 she came to Canberra as research assistant to Professor Manning Clark. She began her teaching career iu the Faculty of Arts when she was appointed tutor in history in 1962. At the time of her death she was a senior lecturer in charge of an advanced unit of Australian history.

Although her knowledge of her subject was immense, her learning was entirely devoid of ostentation. She had a vision of Australian history as the accumulated efforts of a succession of migrants, from the first Aboriginal migrants to the boat people.

A very special interest of hers was the secondary movement of people from the country to the towns which made our society one of the most urbanised in the world.

She saw Australian history not so much as the interplay of great forces as the product of the attempts of ordinary people—mean and generous, haughty and humble—to make sense of their new and often hostile environment. She published numerous articles in her field.

Her lectures were delivered with vivacity and grace. The door of her office was always open to students who had questions or who just wanted to talk things over.

With inspiring courage, she never allowed her battle with illness to interfere with her work in the slightest degree. A wholly dedicated scholar and teacher, she will be sorely missed by colleagues and students.

She leaves her husband, Keith, and son, Howard.

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'Penny, Barbara (?–1982)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

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