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Joan Beaumont

Joan Beaumont

Joan Beaumont is Professor Emerita in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University and author of Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War (2013), joint editor of Serving our Country: Indigenous Australians: War, defence and citizenship (2018), and author of Australia's Great Depression (2022).

‘“I never knew my uncle”: The phenomenon of pilgrimages and postmemory’ by Joan Beaumont

July 2024, no. 466 20 June 2024
Pilgrimages to war cemeteries have long been part of the rituals of Australian remembrance. It is easy to understand why veterans and the parents and siblings of the men who died in war make these journeys. But why do younger generations do so today, more than a century after World War I and eight decades after World War II? These were not their battles, nor their wars. Why do they seek out the se ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'Conquer We Must: A military history of Britain 1914–1945' by Robin Prior

August 2023, no. 456 24 July 2023
Robin Prior opens this monumental military history by stating that Britain was the only power on the Allied side in both world wars to fight the regimes of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperialist Japan ‘from beginning to end’. Some might quibble. Was not 1937 the beginning of the war against Japan? But few could doubt that Britain’s sustained war effort in ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'Dispatch from Berlin, 1943: The story of five journalists who risked everything' by Anthony Cooper, with Thorsten Perl

June 2023, no. 454 23 May 2023
Bomber Command operations cost about 3,500 Australian lives in World War II. This was more than five times the number of Australians who died in the Battle of Kokoda from July to November 1942. Yet the strategic bombing offensive over Germany has never held a comparable place in the national memory of war. Possibly this is because Bomber Command did not lend itself to a nationalist narrative. Whe ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'Prisoners of War: Europe: 1939–1956' by Bob Moore

November 2022, no. 448 21 October 2022
This is a difficult book to read, not because of its length (nearly 500 pages without references); nor because of its density. It is because this study of prisoners of war in Europe during World War II documents suffering on an almost unimaginable scale. In this theatre of war, more than twenty million servicemen and servicewomen fell into enemy hands. Millions did not survive captivity. Bob Moor ... (read more)

'"Too busy to have time for us": Reflections on Australian Studies at Harvard' by Joan Beaumont

April 2022, no. 441 23 March 2022
In 1976, the Australian government signed an agreement with one of the leading universities in the world, Harvard, to fund a visiting professorial position in Australian Studies. Originally conceived by the government of Gough Whitlam, the gift of US$1 million was a token of Australian goodwill to the United States on the bicentennial celebration of the American Revolution. Its purpose was to pr ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'Prisoners of the Empire: Inside Japanese POW camps' by Sarah Kovner

March 2022, no. 440 21 February 2022
The suffering of prisoners of the Japanese dominates many Australians’ memories of World War II. More than 22,000 men and almost forty women were captured in Southeast Asia between 1942 and 1945. About 8,000 of them died. Traditionally this high death rate has been attributed to a mix of Japanese cruelty and their refusal to observe international humanitarian law. The military code of bushidō, ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'The War Lords and the Gallipoli Disaster: How globalized trade led Britain to its worst defeat of the First World War' by Nicholas A. Lambert

July 2021, no. 433 22 June 2021
The Gallipoli campaign has a peculiar fascination for historians of World War I. This new book, by British historian Nicholas A. Lambert, is concerned not so much with the conduct of the campaign as with the reasons for its being launched. The chances for its success were known at the time to be low, so why was this gamble, which cost perhaps 130,000 Allied and Ottoman lives, taken? ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'Staring at God: Britain in the Great War' by Simon Heffer

April 2020, no. 420 19 March 2020
It seems hard to imagine that we need more books on World War I after the tsunami of publications released during the recent centenary. Yet, here we have a blockbuster, a 926-page tome, Staring at God, by Simon Heffer, a British journalist turned historian in the tradition of Alistair Horne and Max Hastings. Heffer opens by stating that Staring at God is neither a military history of the war nor ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'Anzac: The unauthorised biography' by Carolyn Holbrook

March 2015, no. 369 01 March 2015
The resurgence of the Anzac legend in the last quarter of the twentieth century took many Australians by surprise. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, it seemed that the rituals of Anzac Day would wither and fade away as the generations who fought the two world wars died. It proved not to be so. ‘Anzac’, to use the common shorthand, now dominates the national memory of war as strongly as it e ... (read more)

Joan Beaumont reviews 'Anzac Memories: Living with the legend' by Alistair Thomson

May 2014, no. 361 28 April 2014
Be warned! The commemorative tsunami is on its way. As James Brown put it recently in Anzac’s Long Shadow (2014), we are now witnessing an Anzac ‘arms race’, as Australians compete to find ‘bigger and better ways to commemorate our sacrificed soldiers’. The bill to the Australian state and federal taxpayers, Brown calculates, will be nearly $325 million. With a further $300 million proje ... (read more)