Gammage, Bill & Peter Spearritt, ed.: Australians 1938

Bill Gammage & Peter Spearritt, ed.

Australians 1938, Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates, Broadway, NSW, 1987

One of the volumes in Australians: A Historical Library. Dozens of contributors, historians and others, present sections under the headings ‘Pioneers on Parade’, ‘Aborigines’, ‘Cradle to grave’, ‘Work’, ‘Leisure’ and ‘The world’. Individual chapters cover, among other things, discrimination against and punishment of Aboriginal Australians, the lives of children, dying, working and striking at Port Kembla, worker-boss relations, unemployment, wireless, the Ashes and refugees. There is extensive use of oral history interviews.

The chapter titled ‘The day of mourning’ is not about Anzac Day but about official treatment of Aboriginal Australians and the one titled ‘Passing away’ is about death generally rather than death in war specifically. Anzac Day in these decades after the Great War was seen as more significant than Australia Day but the book devotes only a few pages to it against the backdrop of the many other strands of history described. Nevertheless, 1938 brought together the past war and the expected future one. In July, the King unveiled at Villers-Bretonneux a monument to 11 000 Australian soldiers who had died in France and Belgium in World War I and had no known grave. (p. 248) On New Year’s Day, the Sydney Morning Herald had editorialised about ‘the new Dark Age’ and the ‘sense of impending calamity’ oppressing Europe. (p. 445) War had continuity.

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