It’s war: Anzac Day dissenters create bitter split between historians





A furore has erupted over Australia’s Anzac Day legacy, with the authors of a new book which questions the day’s origins accused by a rival historian of failing to acknowledge the preeminent scholar in the field.

As Australians prepare to pay tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers, La Trobe University Emeritus Scholar Inga Clendinnen has declared war on a controversial new book What’s Wrong With Anzac? The militarisation of Australian history.

Clendinnen told Crikey that she was “shocked” by the book, which describes the day’s festivities as a “myth”, claiming co-author Mark McKenna had “failed” to sufficiently acknowledge Anzac Day academic doyen Ken Inglis.

The stoush reflects a bitter split between historians over the significance of Anzac Day, with personal accounts of public mourning favoured by Clendinnen and Inglis contrasted with broader arguments that emphasise the deliberate reconstruction of the day by governments.

In McKenna’s chapter, entitled “Anzac Day: how did it become Australia’s national day?”, the University of New South Wales associate professor writes provocatively that “the ‘resurgence’ of Anzac Day…stands at the vanguard of a new wave of patriotism in twenty-first century Australia, [that] emerged out of the politics of nationalism in the 1980s.”

But while Inglis is cited in the footnotes, Clendinnen, who was tutored by Inglis at Melbourne University in the 1950s, says his response to previous versions of McKenna’s argument are deliberately granted short shrift — a serious allegation in academic circles.

“I was shocked actually, I shot down to the bookshop to pick up a copy when I heard about it. Historians have standards and I couldn’t believe it. Ken is the major scholar in this area but he hasn’t been properly referenced....


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