E-Newsletter No. 30, 10 October 2015

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

Centenary Watch: an open letter from Honest History to the new Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac

Since our last newsletter the government has changed and so has the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac. Senator Michael Ronaldson has gone and the new Minister is Stuart Robert MP, who is also Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Human Services. Honest History president, Professor Peter Stanley, has written to the Minister, congratulating him on his appointment, explaining the relevance of Honest History’s work to centenary activities and looking forward to a meeting with him. Read more … 

Also new on the Honest History site

  • The first Anzac Day? This year is 100 years since the landing/invasion at Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, popularised as ‘Anzac’. But when was the first Anzac Day? Was it on 25 April 1916 or was it in Adelaide, 13 October 1915, a century ago today?
  • Review: Australia’s future in a restless Asian continent. Derek Abbott reviews Michael Wesley’s Restless Continent, which shows how the dramatic growth of Asia has shifted economic power from the North Atlantic and created challenges for the established order. 
  • Central Australia as a battleground long before Mad Max. An anonymous piece from The Triad (1917) on the possibility of persuading the nations of the world to fight their battles in the spacious, warm expanse of Australia’s ‘dead heart’.
  • Finding Australian history resources. There’s Trove, Informit, the Australian Dictionary of Biography and various Commons. There’s Honest History and the links from our site and now there’s also John Myrtle’s database covering 1900 to the 1970s. 
  • Change and continuity at Honest History. There are changes to our newsletter and coming to our home page. We still welcome donations to assist our entirely voluntary team deliver a better service. 


Supermac’s Home rule. ‘In October 1963, when Harold Macmillan was handing over the premiership to Alec Douglas-Home, he is supposed to have called the younger man to his office and passed on some reassuring advice. "My dear boy", he said, "as long as you don’t invade Afghanistan you’ll be absolutely fine".’ William Dalrymple, author of Return of a King: the Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42. More from him (scroll down a bit).

Split. ‘Longstreet turned to see his face. Lee was riding slowly ahead, without expression. He spoke in that same slow voice. "To be a good soldier you must love the army. But to be a good officer you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love. This is … a very hard thing to do. No other profession requires it. That is one reason why there are so very few good officers. Although there are many good men."’ Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels (1974), American Civil War novel.

Dugout Doug lays it on the line. ‘It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.’ General Douglas MacArthur (1952)

High tech. ‘[E]ven a few 600-rounds-per-minute machine guns set within pill boxes or other protected sites could block tens of thousands of men attempting to advance across open ground. Notwithstanding that, for some two months the generals persisted with their "lightning advances", though inevitably at terrible human cost, the loss of one million lives including the deaths of four-fifths of the original British Expeditionary Force.’ Ian Buckley, ‘World War One: human cost’ (2005); more from him

Past, present and future. ‘We have misremembered the past in order to bury a history of debate, both around Anzac Day and the politics of war, fearful perhaps, at a time of global uncertainty, that similar divisions might erupt and disturb the ranks of our present-day patriotic army.’ Mark McKenna in What’s Wrong with Anzac? (2010)

Call for the dead. ‘History, writes the American historian Richard White … may sometimes seem like "an unnatural act": ‘By making the private public I risk hurting people, telling what they do not wish widely known, in the service of a dead thing – history."’ Graeme Davison, Lost Relations (2015).

Family ties. ‘Family history grounds our identity in a past deeper than our own memory. Asked when they feel most connected with the past, many people talk about looking at old family photographs, visiting museums and touching heirlooms or other objects associated with their family’s history. A tangible past – a history one can see, touch and feel – often seems more evocative than one based on words alone.’ Graeme Davison, Lost Relations (2015) 

What’s on

  • Museum of Australian Democracy does The Dismissal again, starting today. MOAD at Old Parliament House, Canberra, will be live tweeting the history of The Dismissal, 1975, with help from journalist and author Paul Daley.
  • What’s on in most major cities, regularly updated
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