In Australia’s rush to commemorate all things Anzac, have we lost our ability to look beyond war as the central pillar of Australia’s history and identity?
The passionate historians of the Honest History group argue that while war has been important to Australia – mostly for its impact on our citizens and our ideas of nationhood – we must question the stories we tell ourselves about our history. We must separate myth from reality – and to do that we need to reassess the historical evidence surrounding military myths.
In this lively collection, renowned writers including Paul Daley, Mark McKenna, Peter Stanley, Carolyn Holbrook, Mark Dapin, Carmen Lawrence, Stuart Macintyre, Frank Bongiorno and Larissa Behrendt explore not only the militarisation of our history but the alternative narratives swamped under the khaki-wash – Indigenous history, frontier conflict, multiculturalism, the myth of egalitarianism, economics and the environment.
About the Author
Dr David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website. A political scientist with qualifications in public law, he is a former public servant and government consultant, and has published widely in journals and newspapers.
Dr Alison Broinowski is an academic, journalist, writer and former diplomat, having had postings in Japan, the Philippines, Korea and the Australian Mission to the UN in New York. Her books include Howard's War (2003) and Allied and Addicted (2007).
'The Honest History group announced its arrival in 2013 with a clear, urgent purpose: to challenge the dominance of the Anzac legend in Australian popular memory. As the centenary of World War I approached, it seemed more important than ever to remind Australians not just of heroism and sacrifice, but of the social and political costs of war. The Honest History Book distils this approach to our history in a series of compelling, highly readable essays by some of Australia's most distinguished historians. Mythbusting and questioning, this book will challenge readers to think not only about the ways our national stories are told, but who funds them and for what purpose ... It will also encourage Australians to demand more from the media, government and cultural institutions that shape our views of our past.' - Michelle Arrow 'This book not only offers a vital corrective to the flimflams and taradiddles of Anzackery, but also gives us a new collection of fascinating essays on Australian history. Complex, inclusive, balanced, disruptive and - crucially - evidence-based, The Honest History Book is destined to provide a much-needed talking point for teachers, journalists, general readers and, with any luck, politicians and policy makers. A timely reminder that there is no such thing as post-truth history.' - Clare Wright 'An important book, both timely and compelling: timely because it provides a powerful and much needed riposte to the current practice of elevating military history above all other aspects of the nation's past.' - Henry Reynolds 'Mark Twain once said that Australia's history read like "the most beautiful lies". The Honest History Book introduces some inconvenient truths. With so many contemporary debates involving appeals to history, the book concerns the present and future as well as the past, and invites the kind of contention that a confident country should welcome.' - Gideon Haigh 'For the past 30 years Australians have been enchanted by the story of the heroic landing of our soldiers at Gallipoli and by a highly romanticised version of the century-long Anzac military tradition. The fascinating and vital question this outstanding and highly readable collection poses is whether an honest version of history can displace or modify the comforts and dangers of state-cultivated and politically-motivated myth. The book would be excellent for high school students and undergraduates.' - Robert Manne 'This is collective history at its finest. In promoting non-khaki stories of our history, The Honest History Book provides us with an invaluable perspective and a balanced approach to the past. Highly recommended.' - Melanie Oppenheimer 'Fake history is as dangerous as fake news ... This has never been more apparent in Australia than during the Anzac revival, where the relentless focus on Australian military history has overshadowed the past contributions and experiences of other Australians. Honest history - and The Honest History Book - demands better.' - Martin Crotty 'The Honest History Book delves into issues that are pertinent, painful and part of our wider story. It demands that we activate our critical thinking, not dull it down and accept what is written. I would be happy to recommend this book to any of my students, which is the greatest praise I can give.' - Matthew Esterman 'The Honest History Book is an inspiration to think more broadly, to challenge preconceptions and serially authorised misrepresentations of our past. This is vital work as Australia rattles around trying to define some agreed notion of national self. It's a must-read for thinking Australians, for the great truth is that until we acknowledge, understand and face up to our past, we'll all be living a bit of a lie.' - Jonathan Green 'Being honest about our own country is essential so that we can properly assess both our achievements and our shortcomings, our strengths and weaknesses. We cannot be a harmonious, confident Australia unless we are honest with ourselves about our history.' - John Menadue 'For some years now the Honest History website has been doing historians a great service by presenting alternative views and encouraging debate about many aspects of Australian history that become obfuscated by myths and half-truths. The publication of The Honest History Book is timely during both the centenary of World War I and debates about the appropriateness of celebrating "Australia Day". Here is a book that should be on the reading list in every tertiary Australian History course.' - Bobbie Oliver 'What really matters in Australian history? Why has Anzac wielded such influence in our national conversation about the past? This book puts Anzac in its place, and offers stories and analysis that account for so much of Australian history that the "Anzac spirit" cannot explain.' - Christina Twomey