We’ve noted recently a couple of books on history as a discipline and history as a guide: there was What is History, Now?, edited by Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb, and What Happens Next? Reconstructing Australia after Covid-19, edited by Emma Dawson and Janet McCalman. Now there is Lessons from History: Leading Historians Tackle Australia’s Greatest Challenges, edited by Carolyn Holbrook, Lyndon Megarrity and David Lowe.
‘How can a knowledge of Australian history enhance our understanding of the present and prepare us for the future?’ runs the blurb for Lessons from History. The answers to that question come from Joan Beaumont, Frank Bongiorno, Ann Curthoys, Graeme Davison, Andrea Gaynor, Jenny Gregory, Carla Pascoe Leahy, Andrew Leigh MP, Mia Martin Hobbs, Ruth Morgan, Yves Rees, Zora Simic, Peter Spearitt, James Walter, Hugh White, and other contributors with wide experience in ‘doing’ and analysing policy-making.
The book was discussed on the ABC’s Late Night Live (Bongiorno, Holbrook, Rees) and at ANU (Beaumont, Bongiorno and Holbrook) and was reviewed by Jeff Sparrow in The Saturday Paper, Penny Russell in Australian Book Review (paywall), and briefly in the Sydney Morning Herald. Honest History is in the midst of reading it and is finding it nutritious and thought-provoking. At the very, very least it is a warning to those whose ‘lessons from history’ run no further than ‘Munich 1938’ (which they then proceed to misinterpret and misapply).
16 August 2022