E-newsletter No. 35, 7 June 2016

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

New on site

Keepers of the flame. Why do the people who control our war memorials look so unlike the rest of us and why does this matter?

Divided sunburnt country: Australia 1916-18. A century on, how much will we hear about the big domestic stories of the Great War?

From the Honest History archives: tangled up in red, white and blue. Putting Anzac in its place in a balanced Australian history.

For love of country. Gentle Reader reviews Anthony Hill’s book about a Canberra region family in war and peace.

Which bank do you know? Some notes from Humphrey McQueen on Australian banking history.

Ann Moyal on what was on Winston Churchill’s mind as the Dardanelles campaign wound up.

Tendering for the knight. Film-makers bid to produce a Monash film for the Villers-Bretonneux ‘interpretive centre’.

Honest History’s Alternative Guide to the Australian War Memorial (downloaded 1150 times since Anzac Day) and other recent posts on the Honest History website.

Centenary Watch

Anzac centenary Minister Tehan makes announcements but not many speeches on record yet: will there be blood? ‘Remembering’ Jutland and the Somme. Dead parrot in Limestone Avenue. The alleged Ataturk words are inscribed in Canada. Tending, tangling, tendering and dividing.


Grasping at haloes. ‘Anzac Day is an example of what happens when an institution becomes untouchable. It’s only appropriate for a glowing halo to surround the sacrifice of individual service people. The problem occurs when others grasp at this and drape it over their own shortcomings. Justified criticism of political failure is stifled and obvious military deficiencies are ignored. By swathing themselves with the glowing halo of others, our political and military leaders hope to excuse their own bungling and unconscionable actions that led to war in the first place.’ (Nicholas Stuart, Fairfax, 2016)

Two cultures. ‘As an amateur historian, this ignorance of the past frustrated me so much that I spent my free time penning a piece on the history of student loans in the UK between 1962 and 2012. This was immediately rejected from the first journal I sent it to, without being sent out for peer review, on the grounds that the story was “familiar to those of us who teach the history of higher education in this period”. That begs an important question: if it was so familiar to them, why had they failed to tell those of us setting policy?’ (Nick Hillman, former ministerial adviser, UK, 2016)

Threats of history. ‘Forgetting, I would even say historical error, is essential to the creation of a nation, which is why the advance of historical study often poses a threat to nationality. Historical inquiry, in effect, brings to light the violent events that are at the source of all political formations, even those whose consequences have been beneficial.’ (Ernest Renan, What is a Nation? 1882)

History of threats. ‘[F]ear is functional. Pressed into the employ of a narrow interpretation of Australia’s “national interest” it is used to justify policies and distract from failures. And it is clear that fear always serves the real elites …, the privileged few who throughout history have claimed to be uniquely positioned to identify the “dangers” from which they must protect us – witches, Jews, blacks, Muslims, communists, terrorists, illegals.’ (Carmen Lawrence, Fear and Politics, 2006)

The workers speak, 1901. ‘The question is whether we would desire that our sisters or our brothers should be married into any of these races to which we object. If these people are not such as we can meet upon an equality, and not such that we can feel that it is no disgrace to intermarry with, and not such as we can expect to give us an infusion of blood that will tend to the raising of our standard of life, and to the improvement of the race, we should be foolish in the extreme if we did not exhaust every means of preventing them from coming to this land.’ (JC Watson, Labor MP, debating the Immigration Restriction Bill, First Commonwealth Parliament, First Session, 1901)

Educated men taking our jobs. ‘With the Oriental, as a rule, the more he is educated, the worse man he is likely to be from our point of view. The more educated, the more cunning he becomes, and the more able, with his peculiar ideas of social and business morality, to cope with the people here.’ (JC Watson, Labor MP, debating the Immigration Restriction Bill, First Commonwealth Parliament, First Session, 1901)

Straight up. ‘In the Olden Days there were no women which is why you don’t come across them in history lessons at school. There were men and quite a few of them were Geniuses. Then there were a few women but their heads were very small so they were rubbish at everything apart from needlework and croquet … Very occasionally a woman would learn a foreign language, go abroad to study, and come back qualified as a doctor but that didn’t prove anything except that women cause trouble as soon as you allow them out.’ (Jacky Fleming, The Trouble with Women, 2016)

Know what I like. ‘Some art by women has accidentally been considered great, a mistake easily rectified by placing it in the Dustbin of History … As well as languishing in the Dustbin of History, you can spot women artists as wives or girlfriends in the background of documentaries about great men.’ (Jacky Fleming, The Trouble with Women, 2016)

Truthiness and power. ‘In this era of post-truth politics, an unhesitating liar can be king. The more brazen his dishonesty, the less he minds being caught with his pants on fire, the more he can prosper. And those pedants still hung up on facts and evidence and all that boring stuff are left for dust, their boots barely laced while the lie has spread halfway around the world.’ (Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, 2016)

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