In 1976 he decided to leave the law to pursue alternatives more aligned with his interest in history. Initially this involved being an archivist with Australian Archives, and he later began postgraduate research in Australian history.
He completed a PhD, which was published in 1984 as Will Dyson: Cartoonist, Etcher and Australia’s Finest War Artist, and shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year Award.
Ross was then chosen to write the ALP’s commissioned centenary history, which was published as The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party 1891–1991.
His next book was the acclaimed biography Pompey Elliott, which was awarded the Christina Stead Award for biography and the Melbourne University Press Award for literature.
Ross reverted to political history in 2004 with So Monstrous a Travesty: Chris Watson and the World’s First National Labour Government to mark the centenary of that pioneering ministry.
He revised his earlier book on Will Dyson, the remarkably talented and versatile artist–writer, and this was published as Will Dyson: Australia’s Radical Genius, which was highly commended by the judges of the National Biography Award.
Ross’s next book was a multi-biography about Australia’s lost generation of World War I. Published as Farewell, Dear People: Biographies of Australia’s Lost Generation, it was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History and the National Cultural Award.
Aware that Pompey Elliott’s letters and diaries constituted the most vivid, forthright and emotional personal record of World War I by any Australian soldier, Ross assembled them in Pompey Elliott at War: In His Own Words.
His most recent book is Life So Full of Promise: Further Biographies of Australia’s Lost Generation, his second multi-biography on the theme of Australia’s lost generation of World War I.
While writing his books Ross has also written a large number of articles, which have been published in many newspapers and periodicals. As well, chapters by him have been included in numerous multi-authored books. Click here to see a full list of articles and chapters in multi-authored books.
In addition, Ross completed two university theses:
“The 1913 Federal Election”, Master of Arts Preliminary (History) thesis, University of Melbourne, 1977
“Will Dyson: Artist, Radical and Nationalist”, PhD (History) thesis, University of Melbourne, 1984
Praise for Pompey Elliott at War