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Robin Prior

Robin Prior

Robin Prior was born in rural South Australia. He studied at the University of Adelaide, completing a doctorate in 1979. He was an ARC Fellow at Adelaide for three years before taking a position with the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy. He was Head of the School of History from 1998 to 2004 and Foundation Head of the School of Humanities and Social Science from 2004 to 2007. He is now Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of Adelaide. He has published widely on World War I: Command on the Western Front, Passchendaele: The Untold Story (1996) and The Somme (2005) with Trevor Wilson, and Churchills ‘World Crisis’ As History (1983) and Gallipoli (2009), as sole author. He is an editor of The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (1995). He is working on a book on Britain in 1940.

Robin Prior reviews ‘Fascists in Exile: Post-war displaced persons in Australia’ by Jayne Persian

July 2024, no. 466 21 June 2024
This important and arresting book chronicles the way in which Australia, from 1947 to 1952, imported some 170,000 displaced persons from Europe, a reasonable number of whom were fascists. The striking thing that Jayne Persian (a historian at the University of Southern Queensland) lays bare is the insouciance with which this policy was adopted and the way in which all political parties fell over th ... (read more)

Robin Prior reviews 'Arthur Blackburn, VC: An Australian hero, his men and their two world wars' by Andrew Faulkner

September 2008, no. 304 01 September 2008
In the days of the Great Anzac Revival, it is unusual to find an Australian VC who has not been the subject of a biography. Here we have one of the most famous of them all – Arthur Blackburn (1892–1960). I was surprised to find that this is the first biography of him. He has been well treated by Andrew Faulkner, who has written this book with admirable verve and restraint. The verve obviously ... (read more)

Robin Prior reviews 'What’s wrong with Anzac? The militarisation of Australian history' by Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds (with Mark McKenna and Joy Damousi)

May 2010, no. 321 01 May 2010
This is an important book that should be read by as wide a range of historians as possible. Some will find it totally agreeable, others will find it very disagreeable, while others will agree with some parts of the book but not all. It is a book not just about the ‘militarisation of Australian history’, but, perhaps more importantly, about how Australians see themselves in the world. The argu ... (read more)

Robin Prior review 'Beersheba: A journey through Australia’s forgotten war' by Paul Daley

September 2009, no. 314 01 September 2009
Much Australian writing about military subjects reminds me of the recent film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which started in adulthood and rapidly progressed into adolescence. From the evidence of this work, it is showing no signs of growing up. This book purports to have discovered an event about which Australians have remained deeply ignorant for the last ninety years: the charge of the L ... (read more)

Robin Prior reviews 'Red Coat Dreaming: How Colonial Australia Embraced The British Army' by Craig Wilcox

December 2009–January 2010, no. 317 01 December 2009
It is ironic that I am writing this review on the tenth anniversary of the comprehensive defeat of the Republican referendum in 1999. This book by Craig Wilcox sets out to tell us that the British army (the Red Coats of the title) was much more popular in the colony than we had hitherto thought. Indeed, on the evidence, it was more popular in Australia than it ever was in Britain, which, even in t ... (read more)

Robin Prior reviews 'Stoker's Submarine' by Fred and Elizabeth Brenchley

August 2001, no. 233 01 August 2001
I remember reading a book entitled Deeds That Won the Empire at primary school. Mainly, it seemed to be about the slaughter of various groups of native races by the superior technology and organisation of the West, always personified by focusing on an intrepid leader called Carstairs or Hethington-Bloggs, or some such name. Even in the 1950s, the book had a desperately old-fashioned feel to it. Th ... (read more)

Robin Prior reviews 'The Battlefield of Imperishable Memory: Passchendaele and the Anzac Legend' by Matthew Haultain-Gall

July 2021, no. 433 27 May 2021
This book is about the battles in which the First Australian Imperial Force took part between June and November 1917. It is not, however, a battle history. Rather, it takes the interesting approach of investigating how Australians remember these battles. Spoiler alert: they don’t. This is a significant finding. The author contends that while we (endlessly) remember Gallipoli, Pozières, and the ... (read more)

Robin Prior reviews 'The Roar of the Lion: The untold story of Churchill's World War II speeches' by Richard Toye

March 2014, no. 359 28 February 2014
In his introduction to this book, Richard Toye makes the startling but, as far as I know, accurate claim that this is the first book to offer a comprehensive analysis of Churchill’s wartime speeches. For a series of orations that now occupy many pages of any dictionary of quotations, The Roar of the Lion fills a surprising gap. Unfortunately, it does not fill it adequately. ... (read more)

Robin Prior on 'The Making of the First World War' by Ian F.W. Beckett

April 2013, no. 350 25 March 2013
The first thing to be said about this book is that no one associated with it seemed to know what to call it or how to describe its contents. The essays which make up the book are not in any sense about the ‘making’ of World War I. They do not describe either elements that ‘made’ World War I in the sense of causing it, or elements that caused World War I to play out the way it did. Even the ... (read more)
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