The Honest History Book is coming in April 2017

Australia is more than Anzac – and always has been

The Honest History Book is a collection of essays on the themes that the Honest History coalition and website have pursued for more than three years. The book is to be published by NewSouth in April 2017. It is edited by David Stephens and Alison Broinowski.

Honest History FINAL front

Not only Anzac but also

Honest History has argued that, while war is important in Australian history, so are many other themes. Hence our mantra: ‘not only Anzac but also’. Some parts of Australian history have not received sufficient emphasis; there have also been some silences. ‘Anzackery’ (defined in the Australian National Dictionary as ‘the promotion of the Anzac legend in ways that are perceived to be excessive or misguided’) has sometimes drowned out other voices.

Part I: Putting Anzac in its place

This part has chapters by Douglas Newton on Australia’s Great War in a world context, Vicken Babkenian and Judith Crispin on Australia’s Armenian story, Carolyn Holbrook on Anzac, past, present and future, and Michael Piggott on why the Australian War Memorial needs to get over Charles Bean. Then, Mark Dapin destroys some myths about the treatment of Vietnam veterans and David Stephens and Burçin Çakır expose the ‘Atatürk words’ confidence trick. Frank Bongiorno asks whether politicians will ever forsake the political advantages of Anzac and David Stephens argues for rescuing a quieter, peaceful Anzac from beneath the sludge of Anzackery.

Part II: Australian stories and silences

Here we have Rebecca Jones looking at how the environment has influenced Australian history, Gwenda Tavan on our ambivalent attitudes to immigration and multiculturalism and Stuart Macintyre on whether we have learned economic lessons from bust and boom. Carmen Lawrence compares the Australian myth of egalitarianism with the reality of increasing inequality while Peter Stanley pursues the contradiction in the military arena between this same myth and our idolisation of Victoria Cross recipients and Sir John Monash.

The ‘silences’ of Australian history feature in Joy Damousi’s chapter on the insufficiently recognised potential of leadership by women and in Larissa Behrendt’s contribution on how the story we tell ourselves has still not dealt with the 1788 invasion moment and its consequences for Indigenous Australians and all of us. Paul Daley then asks why frontier conflict has been glossed over in our mostly Anglo-Celtic presentation of history.

Finally, Mark McKenna wonders whether Anzac, with its inbuilt monarchical element – ‘King and Country’ – threatens our capacity to ever become a republic and Alison Broinowski describes Australia’s continuing tug of war between militarism and independence.

Scroll down for a full list of chapters and authors.

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Extracts from the book

‘History means interpretation’, said EH Carr, and he was right. The discipline of history is a contest between interpretations. Honest history – the concept – is interpretation robustly supported by evidence. History is distinguished from myth by the strength of the evidence supporting the interpretation. Dishonest history is characterised by tendentious or selective interpretations or by inadequate evidence. All historians select evidence. It is how they select it that matters, not the fact that they do …

The Honest History coalition has always recognised that war is important in our history – not so much because of what Australians have done in war but because of what war has done to Australia, to Australians and to others – but so are many other events and influences. Our mantra has been ‘Not only Anzac but also’ – the ‘also’ being shorthand for all the non-Anzac influences.

Some people believe the Australian nation was born on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915. But focusing on that single foundation moment oversimplifies Australia’s history and constrains its identity. Honest History – the coalition – has argued instead for a rebalanced view of Australian history, where Anzac is reduced to a proportionate place and other influences are recognised. Downsizing Anzac need not mean doing away with Anzac altogether, but does mean winding back its excesses.

Geoffrey Serle, historian and biographer of Sir John Monash, coined the term ‘Anzackery’ in 1967 to apply to the sentimental, jingoistic commemoration of Anzac. When Serle wrote, Anzackery seemed to be fading away, but it has come back, stronger, more sentimental and just as jingoistic, in the last 25 years. Finally, in 2016 the word ‘Anzackery’ appeared in a dictionary: the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary defines it as ‘[t]he promotion of the Anzac legend in ways that are perceived to be excessive or misguided’ …

The best way of downsizing Anzac and seeing off Anzackery is by promoting the non-khaki side of our national story. A century after Gallipoli, surely it is time to pay more attention to the winding and fascinating tracks – environmental, social, political, cultural, scientific, and so on – down which Australians have travelled to where we are now.

In her chapter in this book, Larissa Behrendt wrote of our need to ‘acknowledge that there is no one dominant national narrative but many concurrent, competing and conflicting stories that reflect the diverse backgrounds and perspectives within Australian society’. This means looking at the many elements of the nation that has grown from the one the men of Anzac thought they were defending all those years ago. It means rejecting silly claims that a single, narrow story is ‘our story’. It means trying to understand the history of our environment, of the multicultural country that immigrants from 200 countries have built, of the devastating effects of economic upheaval but the smugness that prosperity can breed.

It means confronting the evidence of the growing gap between unequal 21st-century reality and our comforting national myth of egalitarianism. It means asking why leadership by women has not been recognised and promoted, so that our first is not our only female prime minister, and young women can aspire to and become leaders in all fields. It also means confronting – and ending – our continuing adolescent relationships with the monarchy, regardless of the ‘star power’ of its current representatives, and with great and powerful friends who take us for granted.

Most of all, upsizing our non-khaki side means facing up to what Larissa Behrendt calls ‘the invasion moment’, for ‘until we do that we will never have found a way to truly share this colonised country’. That invasion of 1788 and its consequences deserve far more of our attention today than do the failed invasion of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and our military ventures since. ‘Not only Anzac but also’ is shorthand for a complex history that deserves exploration, understanding, commemoration and even, sometimes, celebration. Australia is more than Anzac – and always has been.

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The Honest History Book

Chapter and title

Author(s) and affiliations

1. Introduction David Stephens (Honest History); Alison Broinowski (Honest History, Australians for War Powers Reform)

 Part I: Putting Anzac in its place

2. Other people’s war: The Great War in a world context Douglas Newton (Western Sydney University)
3. 24 April 1915: Australia’s Armenian story over a century Vicken Babkenian (Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies); Judith Crispin (Australian Catholic University)
4. Adaptable Anzac: Past, present and future Carolyn Holbrook (Monash University)
5. The Australian War Memorial: Beyond Bean Michael Piggott (Honest History; independent scholar, recent National Library of Australia Fellow)
6. ‘We too were Anzacs’: Were Vietnam veterans ever truly excluded from the Anzac tradition? Mark Dapin (author, journalist, Fairfax)
7. Myth and history: The persistent ‘Ataturk words’ David Stephens; Burçin Çakır (Glasgow Caledonian University)
8. A century of bipartisan commemoration: Is Anzac politically inevitable? Frank Bongiorno (Australian National University)
9. Anzac and Anzackery: Useful future or sentimental dream? David Stephens

 Part II: Australian stories and silences

10. Fire, droughts and flooding rains: Environmental influences on Australian history Rebecca Jones (Australian National University)
11. From those who’ve come across the seas: Immigration and multiculturalism Gwenda Tavan (La Trobe University)
12. Bust and boom: What economic lessons has Australia learned? Stuart Macintyre (University of Melbourne)
13. ‘Fair go’ nation? Egalitarian myth and reality in Australia Carmen Lawrence (University of Western Australia)
14. Australian heroes: Some military mates are more equal than others Peter Stanley (Honest History, University of New South Wales Canberra)
15. Hidden by the myth: Women’s leadership in war and peace Joy Damousi (University of Melbourne)
16. Settlement or invasion? The coloniser’s quandary Larissa Behrendt (University of Technology, Sydney)
17. Our most important war: The legacy of frontier conflict Paul Daley (author, journalist, Guardian Australia)
18. King, queen and country: Will Anzac thwart republicanism? Mark McKenna (University of Sydney)
19. Australia’s tug of war: Militarism versus independence Alison Broinowski
20. Conclusion Alison Broinowski; David Stephens

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* Cover illustrations and colours and page total still to be finalised.

4 February 2017


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