E-newsletter No. 32, 2 February 2016

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©


Singing country: the musical legacy of David Morrison, Australian of the Year – and a straw in the wind? A story about John Schumann’s song ‘On every Anzac Day’ and what it means for recognition of Indigenous service to Australia, in the Queen’s uniform and out of it.

‘Visitation’ numbers at the Australian War Memorial since 1991; is this joint really jumpin’? Our forensic study of visitors through the door of the Memorial and to its website presents important evidence and points to confusion and spin.

‘Fixing the system’: Griffith Review 51 just out and reviewed by David Stephens. GR sets the gold standard for quarterly reviews and this issue shows why politics is not just a horse race.

Australia is all right.’ Andrew Fisher, Australia’s new High Commissioner in London, visits Paris. It was January 1916 and he talked up the war effort. But was his heart really in it?

For those who just came back: recent Honest History highlights. Latest posts, thumbnails and tags tap our rich website resources, 1750 posts and counting.

Centenary Watch

A promotional video with layers. The counters of Campbell. Honest History meets Minister’s Chief of Staff. Minister reassures pilgrims (but will they go?).


Come to this? ‘There is a long history of contention over the significance and meaning of the Anzac legend. But once a tradition is defined in more inclusive terms, those who refuse to participate can readily be represented as beyond the pale. To question, to criticise – to doubt – can become un-Australian … Anzac’s inclusiveness has been achieved at the price of a dangerous chauvinism that increasingly equates national history with military history, and national belonging with a willingness to accept the Anzac legend as Australian patriotism’s very essence.’ (Australian historian, Frank Bongiorno)

Universal principles (I). In the face of McCarthyism in 1950, United States Senator Margaret Chase Smith set out ‘the basic principles of Americanism: The right to criticize; The right to hold unpopular beliefs; The right to protest; The right of independent thought.’ (Quoted, William Lee Miller, Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World, 2012)

Still true (I). ‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.’ (President Eisenhower, ‘The chance for peace’ speech, 1953)

Universal principles (II). ‘Historians reach judgements by consideration of the issues, examination of the evidence, weighing of the arguments … [T]he inquiry has to be conducted by the procedures of historical scholarship: the relevant literature has to be discussed, the relevant evidence assembled, assessed and set in context, its interpretation justified. These are the procedures that guide the historian. They make it possible for other historians to test the validity of the conclusions, to distinguish history that has warrant from accounts of the past that lack it.’ (Stuart Macintyre with Anna Clark, The History Wars, 2003)

Insider’s view. ‘The task of a public officer seeking to explain and gain support for a major policy is not that of a writer of a doctoral thesis. Qualification must give way to simplicity of statement, nicety and nuance to bluntness, almost brutality, in carrying home a point.’ (Dean Acheson, US Secretary of State 1949-53, quoted William Lee Miller, Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World, 2012)

Change of tack. ‘[During the American Civil War] it was the body parts of injured soldiers … that increasingly represented the cost of war. Yet in the postwar years this objectification of men’s bodies was reinterpreted as a celebration of masculine valor. Scholars of masculinity have argued that as the horrendous memories of mangled bodies faded, war was increasingly viewed as a vital component in shaping men’s characters.’ (Jacqueline Glass Campbell, When Sherman Marched North from the Sea, 2003)

Collateral damage. ‘Men will always persist in foolishly imagining that there is some way of making war simply on armed men. It cannot be done successfully. The fields and houses, the women and children always suffer.’ (Union army chaplain John I. Hight, quoted, Jacqueline Glass Campbell, When Sherman Marched North from the Sea, 2003)

Still true (II). Mary Delahunty interviews then Prime Minister Julia Gillard. MD: ‘Why do you think the government wasn’t given credit for navigating successfully through the global financial crisis?’ JG: ‘I don’t think people give credit for a hiding averted.’ (Mary Delahunty, Gravity, 2014)

History and myth. ‘The problem with accounts written over a century after the event is not so much that later historians were influenced by biased reports in the contemporary press, but that they seem to have relied largely upon colourful secondary accounts, written some time after the event … But people like a good story …’ (Douglas Wilkie, Melbourne historian, writing about the gold rush era)

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