Launched by Alison Arrow, contributors to the discussion included co-editors David Stephens and Alison Broinowski, together with authors Vicken Babkenian, Judith Crispin, Mark Dapin and Paul Daley. A Q&A session with an audience of about 80 people followed the discussion.
The co-editors question whether the ability to look beyond war as the central pillar of Australia’s history and identity has been a casualty of the rush to commemorate all things Anzac.
While not denying that war has been important to Australia – mostly for its impact on notions of nationhood – the co-editors argue that the capacity to question influential historical narratives needs to be sustained.
In the words of Alison Arrow, “the historical stories we tell ourselves as a nation must be based on evidence, not fantasy. In an age where ideology, rather than evidence, has become the filter through which people assess “truth”, it is more important than ever that we historians continue to insist on the importance of making judgements based on evidence.”
The Honest History Book, comprising 20 essays by 19 authors, is basically divided into two parts: ‘Part I: Putting Anzac in its place’ and ‘Part 2: Australian stories and silences’.
Topics in Part 1 include the Great War in a world context, the Armenian holocaust, the history of Anzac commemoration and Vietnam veterans and the Anzac tradition.
The wider ranging topics in Part 2 encompass environmental influences on Australian history, immigration and multiculturalism, economic booms and busts, the egalitarian myth, women’s leadership in war and peace, colonialism, the legacy of the frontier conflict, Anzac and republicanism, together with militarism and independence.
The full list of chapters and authors can be accessed here.