Best We Forget: The war for white Australia, 1914–18
Text Publishing, $32.99 pb, 264 pp, 9781925603750
In pondering the construction of public memory in Ireland, the eminent American historian Richard White insisted on the demythologising work of history as a discipline: ‘History is the enemy of memory. The two stalk each other across the fields of the past, claiming the same terrain. History forges weapons from what memory has forgotten or suppressed.’ In Best We Forget: The war for white Australia, 1914–18, Peter Cochrane wants to jog Australia’s memory by reminding us that the celebrated myth of Anzac obscures a problematic history. But in joining the battle between history and memory, he notes the warning of his friend, the late John Hirst, who wrote: ‘My own view is that history will never beat myth.’ But does this assumed opposition really hold?