Stanley, Peter: Honest History: possible, desirable, necessary?

Stanley, Peter

Honest History: possible, desirable, necessary? Eldershaw Memorial Lecture to Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Hobart, 12 August 2014′, Honest History, 4 November 2014

Professor Stanley, president of Honest History, outlines the history of Honest History, while interweaving elements of military history and the dilemmas associated with writing it. He analyses some of the activities mooted for the centenary of Anzac. He is critical of commercialised commemoration and of the disregarding of evidence in the rush to reinforce myths and legends.

Honest History stands for the idea that history should not be something officially endorsed or imparted, still less one interpretation endorsed or enshrined by powerful agents in our society, whether they be the federal government or one of its agencies, or a corporation with a reach based on newspaper, television or multi-media ownership …

The present centenary program, big on commemorative gestures (such as the risible planned “re-enactment” of the departure from Albany of the first convoy in 1914) is long on ephemeral events but short on substantive and especially critical history. The sense that the centenary, and especially the officially endorsed or funded program, was likely to entrench a parochial, nationalist and sentimental view of the Great War began to attract concern among those who favoured a less parochial view of the experience and memory of war.

For related material, see Professor Stanley’s article in History Australia and his remarks about being a military historian.

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