From the Honest History vault for Anzac Day in the time of Coronavirus: Anzackery is the bastard twin of a useful Anzac

Anzac Day 2020 will be very different from recent Anzac Days. For example, instead of the Dawn Service in Canberra, with thousands gathered outside the Australian War Memorial, there will be a few officials holding a service inside the building, televised to Australians who get up early. People are being encouraged also to recite Laurence Binyon’s Ode (‘They shall grow not old …’) at appropriate times and places.

Coronavirus has necessarily taken away the shoutiness that has often accompanied remembrance in the last couple of decades. Honest History resurrected the term ‘Anzackery’ to characterise what historian Peter Stanley once called ‘the bastard twin of Anzac’, Anzackery being defined in a couple of dictionaries as ‘the promotion of the Anzac legend in ways that are perceived to be excessive or misguided’. We saw Anzackery also as jingoistic, sentimental and maudlin.

Honest History’s David Stephens tried to distinguish between Anzackery and Anzac and wrote a chapter accordingly in The Honest History Book. There is an edited version here. The Anzac ideal set out in the article is mostly private, focussed on individual soldiers and their families, prepared to confront the consequences of our national decisions to go to war, honest and avoiding euphemism, and recognising the impacts of war on people other than Australians.

The Honest History website contains over 600 posts tagged ‘Anzac analysed’. We welcome comments on any of them or on the current ‘From the Honest History vault in the time of Coronavirus’ post. See also, two more excavations from the vault: Wallendbeen 2014; Norfolk Island 2015.

16 April 2020



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