e-Newsletter No. 31, 1 December 2015

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

New on the site

There is a new Minister for the Centenary of Anzac. Will he be too busy with his other jobs to do the Anzac job properly? David Stephens writes.

Seeking him here, there and everywhere. The elusive ‘Ataturk words’ of 1934 slip further away; the ministerial mouthpiece wasn’t even there. We look at the latest research from Ankara.

Going beyond the khaki opera. Challenging and extending how we remember the Great War. Two reviews of World War One: A History in 100 Stories, by Bruce Scates, Rebecca Wheatley and Laura James.

What was Australia’s Miles Franklin doing with the Serbs in 1917? Diane Bell’s review essay considers a war memoir that has come to us by a circuitous route.

Are the 1980s part of history already? Some of us think it was only yesterday. Janet Wilson reviews Frank Bongiorno’s The Eighties: The Decade that Transformed Australia.

Going to the Flicks, Brisbane, November 1915. Kitchener, Joffre and fluttering hearts across No Man’s Land.

Honest History’s website has been tweaked – just a little – as it clambers up the popularity poll.

Centenary Watch

Are we yet at ‘peak Anzac’ and is ‘a century of service’ enough? (‘Easy from now on’? ‘Ka-ching!’ at home in the West; ‘I think I can, I think I can …’)


Women’s work. ‘What women can do is refuse to be co-opted by a system which insists that we are protected by men and that men with guns are the ultimate protection. Our real protection comes from claiming our rights, our equality and our space.’ (Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom)

Natural outcomes. ‘The military spirit … is strongly developed in Mr. Winston Churchill, who thinks that the Gallipoli campaign should be continued regardless of loss of life … This brutal disregard of human life is the natural outcome of military training, and should open the eyes of women. (Woman Voter, 2 December 1915)

PM for the ages? ‘In so many ways, Turnbull is a politician constructed for posterity; for the golden years. For building libraries and studying the twelve great cultures and being funny and interesting and knowing who Pliny was. It’s hard to doubt his enthusiasm for Australia or his love for it. There are many things that are endearing about Malcolm Turnbull, not least his persistent and misguided belief that politics is a meritocracy.’ (Annabel Crabb, ‘Stop at nothing: the life and adventures of Malcolm Turnbull’, Quarterly Essay 34, 2009)

Which Malcolm? ‘Young Malcolms are glowering louts who excel at ear tweaking, chinese burns and hurling rabbit punches at very little children. Versatile, they can turn their heavy hands to any calling that requires cruelty, or demands sacrifices of others. They are often to be found miserably owning coal mines, or foreclosing mortgages. Particularly vicious when abroad, Malcolms have traditionally spearheaded the Empire, combining bad banking practice with brute force.’ (Patrick Cook, Favourite Names for Boys and Girls, 1983)

Abbottabad went south. ‘Now, a majority of Abbott’s colleagues have come to see what many observers knew long ago: that there was little depth to the driving ambition. The swagger, intended to convey purpose and determination, was suggestive of an eternal student politician trying to look like the real thing. The surprising thing is that he survived as prime minister for so long.’ (Norman Abjorensen, ‘Uneasy lies the head’, Inside Story, September 2015)

Short and sharp. ‘The number of words allowed [in Great War epitaphs] was strictly limited: sixty-six letters minus the spaces between each word. The [Imperial War Graves] Commission also reserved the right to veto any epitaph it deemed inappropriate. Suggested inscriptions were routinely sent back to families; grieving mothers, fathers, wives told their last message was too long, too cumbersome, “inartistic”, even “sentimental”.’ (Scates, Wheatley and James, World War One: A History in 100 Stories).

Things remain the same. ‘[The Australian War Memorial’s historians] determine the content of each story [told at the daily Last Post Ceremony] and ensure a consistent format … [C]ontent of the story remains at the sole discretion of the Memorial. Requests [from families] for specific information to be included in the story may not be possible.’ (War Memorial website, quoted in review of Scates, Wheatley and James)

What’s on?

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