Last night around 60 people went to Muse Canberra to hear Professor Tom Griffiths AO of the ANU launch The Honest History Book in the national capital. Attendees agreed that the book is a significant contribution to Australian history and noted with appreciation the term applied to it in earlier in the day by the ABC’s James Valentine: it is not only a collection of essays but also a manifesto.
Tom Griffiths said the book ‘manages to be both a collection of twenty stimulating essays and also a coherent, coordinated manifesto [that word again] about the health and balance of Australian history’. Professor Griffiths welcomed the type of history the book offers.
“Honest history”, as defined here, doesn’t mean history that is intrinsically anti-war, or anti-Anzac or anti-military. It means history that is robustly supported by the evidence, history that is transparent in its use of sources, history that is contestable. It means history that expects, invites and welcomes disagreement and debate about the evidence. It is history that is wary of spin and cliché, that interrogates propaganda, and that sensitively studies the evolution and influence of myth. It is history that complicates rather than simplifies, that challenges rather than comforts, that works against the grain of power rather than submissively with it. So it is history that explores shadows and silences, fissures and flaws, as well as heroes and triumphs, pride and romance. It is history that encourages the growth of a rich, unruly and diverse ecosystem of stories rather than a simplified monoculture of sanctioned sentiments.
People at the Canberra launch also heard from co-editors David Stephens and Alison Broinowski and chapter authors Michael Piggott, Rebecca Jones and Peter Stanley. Tom was congratulated on this week being awarded the Ernest Scott Prize for his book The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft. Tom discussed his book (and Honest History’s) with interested people, including Emerita Professor Diane Bell, who reviewed Tom’s book for Honest History.
The Canberra event was the first of three launches of The Honest History Book, with still to come Sydney (launcher Michelle Arrow of Macquarie University) on 12 April and Melbourne (with Jonathan Green of Meanjin and ABC RN) on 20 April. Register for Sydney here; details of Melbourne here (registration not required).
Media representatives wanting to talk about the book should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The same applies to organisations seeking a speaker from the Honest History group.
7 April 2017