Honest History will bring together material, existing and new, which presents key themes of Australia’s past (including perceptive treatments of the Anzac tradition), helps explain why Australia is as it is today and where it has come from, and assists readers to come to their own conclusions about what should be the building blocks of our future. It aims to encourage debate and stimulate informed discussion.
There is much more to Australian history than the Anzac tradition; there is much more to our war history than nostalgia and tales of heroism. Honest History has been set up to get those two messages across.
History should be contestable. Facts may be disputed and they can be selected and interpreted in many ways. But when one interpretation drives out others, regardless of the weight of evidence, history becomes unbalanced.
Honest History seeks balanced history, where contesting, evidence-based interpretations are available to students, teachers, universities, journalists and the public, and history is not misused to serve political or other agendas. Even if one would prefer that the whole of our history could be told as, say, ‘the march of progress’ or ‘the triumph of the Anzac spirit’, honesty demands a consideration of what is and what has been, based on the evidence, as well as what should be. Honest history is interpretation robustly supported by evidence.
While Australia’s military history is just one strand among many in our history, for some Australians in recent years it has become a preoccupation and an industry, even as the direct participants in the two World Wars have mostly died. Many commentators have expressed concern at this trend.
Our military history will take an even higher profile as we approach the centenary of World War I. In the next several years, there will be a special need for both balance and honesty in the way we deal with this part of our history. Honest History will contribute to this process by trying to present the full richness of the tapestry of Australian history, within which the Anzac motif can retain its appropriate and proportionate place. It is not a question of ‘either Anzac or (some alternative single myth)’ but ‘not only Anzac but all of the other important threads of our history’.
26 June 2013 (revised)