Inga Clendinnen

Inga Clendinnen, AO, FAHA (née Jewell; 17 August 1934 – 8 September 2016) was an Australian author, historian, anthropologist, and academic.

Inga Clendinnen
Inga Clendinnen 2008 Adelaide Writers' Week.png
Clendinnen at the 2008 Adelaide Writers' Week
Inga Vivienne Jewell

(1934-08-17)17 August 1934
Geelong, Australia
Died8 September 2016(2016-09-08) (aged 82)
AwardsHerbert Eugene Bolton Memorial Prize (1988)
Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (1992)
New South Wales Premier's General History Prize (1999)
New South Wales Premier's Gleebooks Prize for Critical Writing (2000)
Adelaide Festival Innovation Writing Prize (2002)
Centenary Medal (2003)
Queensland Premier's History Book Award (2004)
New South Wales Premier's Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction (2004)
Kiriyama Prize for Non-Fiction (2004)
Australian Society of Authors Medal (2005)
Officer of the Order of Australia (2006)
Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal (2007)
Dan David Prize (2016)
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
La Trobe University
Academic work
InstitutionsUniversity of Melbourne (1956–68)
La Trobe University (1969–91)
Main interestsMesoamerica
European contact with indigenous populations

Early life and educationEdit

Clendinnen was born in Geelong, Victoria, in 1934.[1] She was the youngest of four children.[2] Her father owned a cabinet-making business and later became a Geelong City Councillor; her mother was a homemaker. Clendinnen graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1955 with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours, followed by a Master of Arts in 1975.[3]


Clendinnen's work focused on social history, and the history of cultural encounters. She was considered an authority on Aztec civilisation and pre-Columbian ritual human sacrifice.[4] She also wrote on the Holocaust, and on first contacts between Indigenous Australians and white explorers.[5]

Clendinnen held the post of senior tutor of History at the University of Melbourne from 1955 to 1968, was a lecturer at La Trobe University from 1969 to 1982, and was then a senior lecturer in History until 1989.[3] Forced to curtail her academic activities after contracting hepatitis in 1991, Clendinnen began working on her memoir, Tiger's Eye, which focused on issues of illness and death. She retained an association with La Trobe University, however, as she was appointed Emeritus Scholar.[3]

In 1999, she was invited to present the 40th annual Boyer Lectures.[6] The ideas presented in these lectures, concerning first contacts in Australia, were later published as True Stories.

In the Australia Day 2006 Honours List, Clendinnen was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), with a citation that read:

For service to scholarship as a writer and historian addressing issues of fundamental concern to Australian society and for contributing to shaping public debate on conflicting contemporary issues.[7]

Clendinnen's AO award was noted and a motion paying tribute to her contributions was passed, in the proceedings of the New South Wales State Parliament's Upper House.[8]

Personal life and deathEdit

Clendinnen married the philosopher of science John Clendinnen in 1955, and had two children with him.[3][9] Inga Clendinnen died on 8 September 2016 after a short illness.[10][11]

Awards and nominationsEdit



  • Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatán, 1517-1570 (1987)
  • Aztecs: An Interpretation (1991)
  • Reading the Holocaust (1998)
  • True Stories (1999)
  • Tiger's Eye: A Memoir (2000)
  • Dancing with Strangers: Europeans and Australians at First Contact (2003)
  • True Stories: History, Politics, Aboriginality (2008) (2nd ed.)
  • The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society: Essays on Mesoamerican Society and Culture (2010)

Essays and Essay CollectionsEdit

  • Agamemnon's Kiss: Selected Essays (2006)
  • "The History Question: Who Owns the Past?" (2006) (from the 23rd edition of Quarterly Essay)


  • Clendinnen, Inga. "Backstage at the Republic of Letters" (PDF). Proceedings of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. 28 (2003): 96–107. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 April 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  • — (April 2009). "The good soldier: WEH Stanner & "An Appreciation of Difference"". The Monthly. 44: 56–61. Retrieved 31 October 2014. Review of Hinkson, Melinda; Beckett, Jeremy, eds. (2008). An appreciation of difference : W E H Stanner and Aboriginal Australia. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press. ISBN 9780855756604.


  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF). Retrieved on 2008-07-24.
  2. ^ Wendt, Jana (16 August 2014). "Warrior of the mind". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Inga Clendinnen". The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth Century Australia. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  4. ^ Nicolas Rothwell, "That's not all, Volk", The Weekend Australian, 26–27 September 1998, Review, p. 14
  5. ^ a b c Prize, Dan David. "Laureates 2016 » Past - Social History - New Directions » Prof. Inga Clendinnen | The Dan David Prize". Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  6. ^ "1999 Dr Inga Clendinnen, Boyer Lectures". Radio National. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
  7. ^ "Australia Day 2006 Honours" (RTF document). It's An Honour:Australia Celebrating Australians. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  8. ^ "Hansard (New South Wales)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). New South Wales Legislative Council. 1 March 2006. p. 20807. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011.
  9. ^ Burstall, Tim (2012). Memoirs of a Young Bastard. Carlton: Miegunyah Press. p. 320. ISBN 9780522858143.
  10. ^ "Vale, Inga Clendinnen".
  11. ^ (9 September 2016). "Vale Inga Clendinnen".
  12. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  13. ^ It's an Honour – Officer in the Order of Australia
  14. ^ "Arts Mildura - Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal Dinner". Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  15. ^ "Clendinnen, Inga 1934- |". Retrieved 13 August 2019.

External linksEdit