Honest History E-newsletter No. 43, 2 May 2017

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

The Honest History Book is now well and truly launched (and sailing very well)

New on the Honest History website

Events like ‘Yassmin-gate’ are inherent in our often politically-driven sentimentality about war memory: Roger Markwick (University of Newcastle) compares the ‘sacralisation’ of history and state legitimation in Australia, Russia and Israel

Afghanistan: The Australian Story documentary shows war is about much more than ‘love and friendship’: review by David Stephens

Anzac: The Landing, The Legend, The Law: Jo Hawkins reviews Catherine Bond’s book about the law surrounding Anzac

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller by Carol Baxter, a biography of a pioneering ‘aviatrix’: reviewed by Margaret Pender

Indigenous military service: Michael Piggott reviews two exhibitions at the National Archives

An imperial visitor takes the measure of Australia’s noble savages, 1901; Honest History highlights reel

Recently on the Honest History site

Centenary Watch

A roof floats onto the whizzo Villers-Bretonneux Monash boondoggle; Yassmin Abdel-Magied; archives, Anzac and Afghanistan


Islands in the stream.Mainstream: Not to be confused with majority. Numbers don’t count. The mainstream is white, of Christian background and conservative. Commonsense and true Australian values, in such short supply among the elites, flourish in the mainstream. Assimilation means [immigrants] merging with the mainstream. Care must be taken not to call overwhelmingly popular causes like equal marriage mainstream. The word doesn’t work like that.’ David Marr, The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race, Quarterly Essay 65, 2017.

Play it again. ‘One Nation is the nostalgia party. “Simply addressing economic inequality – which is what the left has tried to do – is just not sufficient,” says [pollster Rebecca] Huntley. “Prosperity is important, but what worries this group is the cultural, social slippage they feel in their life. They imagine their fathers’ and grandfathers’ lives were better, more certain, easier to navigate.”‘ David Marr, The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race, Quarterly Essay 65, 2017.

Knowing history. ‘To know history is to be able to see beyond the present, to remember the past gives you capacity to look forward as well, it’s to see that everything changes and the most dramatic changes are often the most unforeseen … [W]e can’t see the future. We have the past. Which gives us patterns, models, parallels, principles and resources, and stories of heroism, brilliance, persistence, and the deep joy to be found in doing the work that matters. With those in our pockets, we can seize the possibilities and begin to make hopes into actualities.’ Rebecca Solnit, ‘Protest and persist: why giving up hope is not an option’, The Guardian, 13 March 2017.

Patriot games. ‘The patriotism I defend is one in which loving one’s country is not reduced to ethnicity or race. It is rather a patriotism that demands of citizens a commitment to a national tradition, comprised of civic values and moulded by historical experience. Loving your country does not mean adhering to unquestioned myths or mindlessly repeating slogans, but being prepared to contribute to the improvement of your community and culture.’ Tim Soutphommasane, Reclaiming Patriotism (2009)

Good question. ‘The question [economist Paul] Krugman posed [in a New York lecture in December 2016] was, how does honest progressivism compete with the mesmerising power of nostalgia? He said 2016 had demonstrated that an emotionally compelling political narrative comprised of simple, strong and bad ideas triumphed over sophisticated policy arguments devoid of emotional resonance.’ Katharine Murphy, ‘The tricky business of what happens next’, Meanjin, Autumn 2017

Thank you, Mr Clarke. ‘A little while back I took some photographs of shore-birds, many of which are migratory and fly to the Arctic in our autumn to breed. Some of the godwits I photographed had orange leg-tags and when I zoomed in I could read the letters and numbers, so I reported these on a website that tracks migratory birds and which tells me these birds were tagged one year ago, in exactly the same place. This means that during 2016 they flew from here, over the South Pacific and southern Asia to China, where for millions of years they have fed on the mudflats in the Yellow Sea between the mainland and the Korean peninsula. Then they fly further north to either Siberia or Alaska. And after the breeding season they fly all the way back. Recently a small transmitter was put in a godwit that flew from Alaska to New Zealand in one go without stopping to eat or rest.’ John Clarke, ‘Commonplace’, Meanjin, Autumn 2017

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