About Using and abusing history

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passover8606526002_fbd9d2451f_cPassover, Mathilde Hahn Meyer, Germany, late 19th or early 20th century, painting on canvas (source: Flickr Commons/Center for Jewish History, New York City 2004.226; repository: Yeshiva University Museum, New York)

Among other material in this section, look for references which try to bust myths about our military history (Baker, Cochrane, Stanley, Stockings, Stockings) and ones which note the airbrushing from that history of battles between settlers and Aborigines and other aspects of Indigenous history (Manne, Manne, Peters-Little et al, Reynolds). Note how the death of ‘the last Anzac’ in 2002 received particular attention from the then Prime Minister, although his eulogy was selective (Cahill) and consider Keating‘s view of World War I, two decades after his Unknown Australian soldier speech. Look for a description of past ‘history wars’ (Chynoweth, Macintyre) and for a possible new phase of that unproductive discourse (Honest History, Hurst, Taylor, Taylor).

Meanwhile, some authors thoughtfully examine ways of researching and teaching history which do not constitute abuse (Arrow, Arrow et al, Clark, Clark, Clark), worry about its ethics (Macintyre), ask whether it is fiction (Curthoys and Docker), see how its first draft, journalism, is frustrated by government and military pressure (Brissenden) or counsel better ways of writing it (Curthoys and McGrath, Curthoys and McGrath). Others try to understand the attitude of youth to Anzac (Davison, Davison), consider the theological aspects of the treatment of Anzac, or see positive aspects in the liking of the young for battlefields (Bendle, Hannaford and Newton, McKay).

Finally, there are some references which show how an appreciation of history can assist our approach to policy and politics (Brandstrom et al, Davison, Neumann and Tavan, Neustadt and May) while Australian Policy and History is a resource supporting efforts in this direction. The words of EH Carr and Friedrich Nietzsche remain, representing those philosophers who have considered what history is and the ways it may influence action.

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