Honest History E-newsletter No. 46, 21 September 2017

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

The Honest History Book

The Honest History Book, published in early April, is still selling well, has been favourably reviewed in a number of places (including by Anna Clark below), and is now in its second print. It forcefully argues the case that Australia is more than Anzac – and always has been.

After 46 Honest History E-newsletters over 53 months, we are making some changes

This E-newsletter is a little late. It is also the last one in this format. We will post new material to the site as it is ready, rather than saving it up to announce in a newsletter (although we will still provide newsletters). Other changes are on the way at Honest History; watch this space.

New on honesthistory.net.au

Anna Clark in the Sydney Review of Books reviews The Honest History Book, whose authors, she says, offer ‘a powerful argument against the superficial, the commercial, and the celebratory aspects of what has come to be termed “Anzackery”, as well as making important interventions that demonstrate the diversity of Australian history’.

Protest 1967 style: how surfer-protester Max Humphreys paddled it up to Prime Minister Ky of South Vietnam on Sydney Harbour – and how the constabulary were somewhat flummoxed. An interview by Daniela Torsh.

Christopher Lloyd writes from Helsinki on the roots and limitations of Australian progressivism: a response to Frank Bongiorno in The Conversation this week.

Here we go again; this time it’s the Armistice Centenary Grants Program. David Stephens finds remarkable consistency in commemoration.

Are Australians still fearful? Looking back at Carmen Lawrence’s book, Fear and Politics (2006) and finding it very relevant.

Les Jauncey, radical Australian historian and person of interest to the FBI (Part II).

Recently on the Honest History site.

New book reviews

Derek Abbott on Denis Cryle on Charles Todd, the Overland Telegraph man; Frank Bongiorno on Ian M. Johnstone and others on Armidale during the Great War.

Centenary Watch

‘Life to its top?’: the Australian War Memorial reflects on World War II. Peacekeeping memorial. Lest We Forget Ute Me Gong ‘Straya: facets of Lee Kernaghan OAM. Directorial disappointment.


Fair call? ‘This is the lie of Australian politics. Nothing is considered on its merits. Everything, apparently, is connected: traditionalist marriage and transphobic bullying and Australia Day barbecues. The past is held on to like tinned hams in a survivalist’s bunker … [This] is an Australia of selfishness and homophobia, ignorant of its history, self-satisfied in its racist superiority.’ The Saturday Paper, editorial, 19-26 August 2017

Pissed under the Southern Cross. ‘You’ve got to be drunk to enjoy drunks, you know? I think it’s one of the saddest things in this country … This country’s always drunk. Drinks for the sundown, drinks for payday. Drinks because there’s some sporting event … A lot of people seem to drink if they’re happy or they’re sad.’ Arrernte-Arabana actor, Aaron Pedersen, The Saturday Paper, 19-26 August 2017

Coping mechanism. ‘People in 1918 had been stunned by the devastation. Afterwards, they chose to protect themselves by not remembering. So severe was the impact of this “mother of all pandemics” on the community of Alaska Natives of Bristol Bay that its elders advised survivors to nallunguarluku, “to pretend that it didn’t happen”.’ Colin Grant, review of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney, The Guardian, 22 July 2017

Uncertain march of history. ‘One of the blessings of living in a democracy is that researchers, students, journalists and citizens at large can all access the past without having to subject themselves to any form of centralised, censoring control … Yet the security of memory in democratic societies may not be as assured as we think. Some politicians want to lead us in a march towards forgetfulness. But that way lies a world of senselessness and deceit. Learning about history, and being able to question some of the narratives advanced in the name of politics is as important as knowing where to get reliable news.’  Natalie Nougayrède, The Guardian, 4 August 2017

Looking for meaning (I). ‘Paradoxically, the more sacrifices we make for an imaginary story, the stronger the story becomes, because we desperately want to give meaning to these sacrifices and to the suffering we have caused. In politics this is known as the “Our Boys Didn’t Die In Vain” syndrome.’ Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015)

Looking for meaning (II). ‘The war’s staggering human cost demanded a new sense of national destiny, one designed to ensure that lives had been sacrificed for appropriately lofty ends. So much suffering had to have transcendent purpose, a “sacred significance”.’ Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (2009)

Looking for meaning (III). ‘He Died for Freedom and Honour.’ Words on the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ or ‘King’s Penny’ sent by King George V to Great War bereaved families.

What’s On

Tell us about your event.