Here you will find links to our series of Honest History Highlights. There are also links to parts of our website which we no longer update but which still contain lots of useful material.
Honest History Highlights
- This 2016 post shows the Australian suburbs and towns that are making parts for the US company Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter. (30 January 2018)
- Western civilisation and education: recent news that the Ramsay Foundation is putting up money for universities to teach courses on Western civilisation raises similar issues to those that surrounded moves on the school history curriculum in 2013. (18 February 2018)
- From 2015, renowned anthropologist Diane Bell reviews Raden Dunbar’s book, The Secrets of the ANZACS: The Untold Story of Venereal Disease in the Australian Army, 1914-1919. (The author and reviewer debate in the comments section.) Also, Dunbar’s article on sexual slavery and prostitution in Egypt circa 1914. (2 March 2018)
- From 2015, a collection of links to some memorable Australian photographs, including the Herald-Sun‘s examination of Melbourne slums (picture), some West Australian landscapes by Chris Beecroft, and the World War I pictures of Charles Snodgrass Ryan, at the time, and Mike Bowers, since but allowing comparisons. (13 March 2018)
- Minister Dutton’s thought bubble about immigration from South Africa reminds us that it is just 12 months since the Australian government’s Multicultural Australia statement. ‘We want people’, says the Minister now, ‘who want to come here, abide by our laws, integrate into our society, work hard, not lead a life on welfare’. Is it still the case that ‘the best marker of immigrants’ success is their capacity to become invisible, through absorption into the national community’ (Gwenda Tavan in The Honest History Book)? (20 March 2018)
- ‘We will NOT fight for Queen and Country.’ In the lead-up to the Anzac season, and on the day that the list of Australian commemorative events for 2018 has been released, we draw attention to the remarks of former British soldier, Ben Griffin, speaking at the Oxford Union in 2013 (picture). ‘Fight for Queen and Country, what does that mean?’ asks Griffin. ‘It is a jingoistic phrase dreamt up by some propaganda merchant intent on stoking the fire of that false religion patriotism.’ (29 March 2018)
- ‘[A] trope based on myth is essentially a confidence trick, and the people most gulled by that trick are the bright-eyed children who are pushed forward, in Australia, Turkey and elsewhere, to recite what they have been told are the words of the great Atatürk‘ (The Honest History Book, 2017, p. 104). While the words commencing ‘Those heroes that shed their blood …’ are comforting, there is no strong evidence that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk ever said or wrote them – and lots of evidence for another story of how they came about. (5 April 2018)
- Adjectival Anzackery: a DVA official hypes the ‘immersive’, ‘state-of-the-art’ Sir John Monash Centre, to be opened at Villers-Bretonneux soon: ‘The design of the centre … envisages an international-standard interpretive centre, with a leading-edge integrated multimedia experience that will provide an evocative, emotional, informative and educational experience for visitors. The centre’s design will, through the use of a range of interpretive multimedia technology, provide a compelling story of Australia’s service and sacrifice on the Western Front.’ Honest History said: ‘[A] massively self-indulgent and boastful boondoggle, replete with meaningless puffery and rash assumptions’. (15 April 2018)
- Anzac Agnostics and Atheists: ‘Anzackery – the extreme version – aside, Anzac may still be a secular religion for some Australians, but it is not the established church; other Australians have the right to be atheist or agnostic about it. Of course, Anzac atheists and agnostics should respect the adherents of the Anzac religion, but they should not in a democracy be required to worship at its altars’: The Honest History Book, 2017. (24 April 2018)
- ‘There is a politics of history as well as a history of politics. People who differ from the Anzac-weighted received view have sometimes let themselves be shouted down. “We agree with what you’re saying”, we have been told occasionally, “but we’ve been afraid of being thought disloyal or unpatriotic”. So Honest History has been an advocacy group – for contestability in history, for balance and for honesty, and against cant, humbug and spin’: The Honest History Book, 2017 (3 May 2018)
- ‘As author Don Watson wrote in 2016, “That’s the thing about spin – or what goes under the banner today of ‘communications’ – you begin to believe your own bullshit. Spin is the stuff that myths are made of.” Bullshit flows relentlessly to fill the space available. Myths build Anzac into Anzackery, overshadowing the many other parts of our history that deserve examination and, sometimes, celebration:’ The Honest History Book, 2017 (11 May 2018)
- ‘While members of the British royal family still troop through the Australian War Memorial, their visits captured in framed photographs – Prince Harry in uniform submitting cheerfully to “selfies” with teenage girls – and on Facebook, Flickr and Instagram, they are treated as celebrities rather than royalty.’ Mark McKenna, ‘King, queen and country: Will Anzac thwart republicanism?’ in The Honest History Book, 2017 (20 May 2018)
- ‘The institutional custodians of our historical and cultural heritage – and aspiring authors who want to make their mark – perpetuate the Ned Kelly myth and its “underdog” version of history. Such a politicised ideology extols Ned as a working class hero, the darling of radical trade unionism and the Australian independence movement. Ned in his armour joins with the Southern Cross flag of stars, as a rebel metaphor for defiant republicanism.’ Doug Morrissey, ‘The heritage marketing of Ned Kelly‘ (2017) (29 May 2018)
- Western Civilisation was under threat in 1951. ‘There are times in the histories of peoples when those charged with high responsibilities should plainly speak their minds. Australia is in danger. We are in danger from abroad. We are in danger at home. We are in danger from moral and intellectual apathy, from the mortal enemies of mankind which sap the will and darken the understanding and breed evil dissensions.’ (8 June 2018)
- Can Trump look Down Under for Space Cadets? ‘You have a true friend down under’, the prime minister began. For her generation, the ‘defining image’ of America was the moon landing in 1969. (She was eight years old at the time, not long arrived in Australia.) I’ll always remember thinking that day: Americans can do anything. Americans helped free the world of my parents’ generation. Americans inspired the world of my own youth. I stand here and I see the same brave and free people today. I believe you can do anything still. There is a reason the world always looks to America. Your great dream – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – inspires us all. PM Julia Gillard speaks to the US Congress, March 2011 (19 June 2018)
- Lies and bullshit. ‘It is disturbing to find an important political figure who indulges freely both in lies and in bullshit. What is perhaps even more deeply disturbing is to discover an important segment of our population responding to so incorrigibly dishonest a person with such pervasively enthusiastic acceptance …Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are …’ Philosopher Harry Frankfurt On Bullshit. The first quoted paragraph refers explicitly to Donald Trump (23 June 2018).
- Banking power. ‘[I]t seems clear that the concentration of banking power today in private hands is not all that different from what would have occurred had bank nationalisation succeeded. Just after the nationalisation announcement [by Prime Minister Chifley in 1947], the Sydney Morning Herald claimed that the plan would mean that the Commonwealth Bank would control £800 million in deposits and shareholders’ funds in the biggest nine banks and be the largest banking monopoly in the world … [T]he big four Australian banks today control more of our banking business than the top four banks anywhere else.’ From one of Honest History’s articles on banking policy; use our search engine to find more. (29 June 2018)
- Thought for NAIDOC Week. ‘These brave warriors who fought for kin and country will never hold their rightful place in the narrative of the colonial project known as Australia. Their loss of life will never be given the same respect as the loss of the life of the ANZACs, the diggers, the great Aussies who fought under the Australian flag. The thousands of men, women and children who were devastated from the countless massacres and atrocities committed against them will never be dignified by the state.’ Wiradjuri artist Amala Groom, 2014. The illustration (supplied by the artist, photo by Liz Warning) is Groom’s work ‘Yindyamarra Roll‘, ‘a tribute to those who fought the onslaught of the colonial invasion of their tribal lands’. (9 July 2018)
- Murdoch media mogul mate hypes Anzac troops after Pozières. ‘These fine soldiers are making Australia’s history, building up the traditions of her future armies. There is hardly one of them who has not patriotism burnt into his soul – and burnt into his body, too, for many of them as a pledge have tattooed on their arms the Australian and Allied flags, with the words “Gallipoli, 1915,” underneath this device … As I drove away for many miles along the lines I could not but marvel at the turn in the world’s conditions which had brought these young giants from the furthest corner of the earth to shed their blood to aid the Powers which were gallantly fighting for the greatest cause in the world – freedom as opposed to tyranny.’ Lord Northcliffe (pictured) writes from France in August 1916, encouraged by Keith Murdoch, probably to help PM Hughes in the conscription campaign just getting under way. (15 July 2018)
- Diane Bell reviews Tom Griffiths, The Art of Time Travel, in 2016. ‘Read this extraordinary work as a series of satisfying tributes to Australian women and men of account; enjoy the momentum; relish the finely-tuned ear for nurturing ideas as Griffiths brings us back to the home note: the past is prologue. And here’s the rub. When in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest Antonio utters those words to Sebastian he is indicating that the past has led them to the act they are about to commit, that is, murder. In popular usage “past is prologue” has come to mean we ignore the past at our peril. For what then is our past prologue?’ (24 July 2018)
- Wilfred Burchett on Hiroshima 1945: ‘Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence … I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden … When you arrive in Hiroshima you can look around and for 25, perhaps 30, square miles you can hardly see a building. It gives you an empty feeling in the stomach to see such man-made devastation … If you could see what is left of Hiroshima you would think that London had not been touched by bombs.’ (5 August 2018)
- Letting somebody else do it. ‘The “Edith Wilson [wife of ailing US President Wilson] regency” … was one piece of evidence that encouraged US lawmakers – eventually – to bring in the 25th Amendment, on “presidential disability”, and that is one piece of constitutional law that lurks in and around Pennsylvania Avenue in 2017. The other, of course, is impeachment.’ ‘The second First Lady, the pretend colonel, and the dogs of Ottawa‘ (2017) (15 August 2017)
- Going. ‘As Norman Abjorensen observes in his new book [The Manner of Their Going: Prime Ministerial Exits from Lyne to Abbott, 2015] to tell of how power is lost or relinquished is “to inject a very human factor into the often brutally impersonal world of politics and power”. It is invariably “a study of imperfection”; it is “the story of Ozymandias“.’ Michael Piggott’s review of Abjorensen (21 August 2018)
- Anomaly. ‘[Charles] Bean lauded volunteer forces, men and women who came, served for a while, then, if they survived, returned to their families changed. Why then is the legacy of those volunteers in those great wars, the great majority of our war dead and damaged, carried in the Council of the War Memorial by permanent, professional military officers and by retired men (and the occasional woman) who have served life terms (or at least many years) in the services?’ David Stephens, ‘Keepers of the flame: making war memorial councils more representative‘ (2016) (29 August 2018)
- Yes, Henry Higgins. ‘Whatever may be the case in other parts of the world, it is clear that in Australia there is a struggle being waged between two conflicting principles, meeting and making turmoil like opposing currents – I refer to what I may call the commercial or bourgeois principle, and the principle of solidarity – the principle of the special or private interest against the principle of the common interest.’ HB Higgins, Founding Father and judge, writing in 1902 (7 September 2018)
- From another banking royal commission. ‘There is no possibility of any well-ordered progress being made in the community, under a system in which there are privately–owned trading banks which have been established for the purposes of making profit … In my opinion the best service to the community can be given only by a banking system from which the profit motive is absent, and thus, in practice, only by a system entirely under national control.’ JB Chifley (born 22 September 1885), dissenting report, 1935-37 Royal Commission on banking (14 September 2018)
Four years of posts (to end 2017) on Australia’s First Peoples, including stories about their treatment in the past and about their aspirations and demands today. We were particularly interested in how Australians deal with the Frontier Wars and the related issue of the involvement of Indigenous Australians in our defence forces.
Of all modern day Australian domestic issues, apart from those affecting Indigenous Australians, inequality is the one that is most susceptible to historical comparisons. Australia promotes an egalitarian ethos but how does the reality compare? From August 2014 to the end of 2017, Honest History tracked and collated resources on the recent practical history of egalitarianism in Australia – the history of the rise of inequality.
Explores the careers of Australian historian and man-of-the-world, Leslie Jauncey, his older brother, Eric, and Leslie’s wife, Beatrice. Leslie, in particular, found himself in interesting parts of the world in the years before and after World War II and wrote perceptively about them.
Here you will find more than 30 months of research on the provenance of the famous words attributed to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and commencing in English ‘Those heroes that shed their blood …’ The research leads to the conclusion that, regardless of the worthy sentiments contained in the words, there is no strong evidence that Atatürk ever said or wrote them. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that the spread of the words at various times since 1953 (15 years after Atatürk’s death) has been due to the needs of Turkish – and to some extent Australian – politics.
There are separate thumbnails on our home page leading to:
Centenary Watch: our continuous chronicle from early 2014 of events, large and small, associated with the Anzac centenary and the centenary of service by the Australian Defence Force.
Divided sunburnt country: Australia 1916-18: an occasional series about the Australian home front during these years, with particular reference to conscription, industrial unrest, and sectarianism. There were 33 posts in the series by February 2018 and we will add more.
February 2018 updated