The History Wars

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Author: Doug Munro
Date: Spring 2007
From: Journal of Social History(Vol. 40, Issue 3)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 912 words
Lexile Measure: 1640L

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The History Wars, new updated edition. By Stuart Macintyre and Anna Clark (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2004. x plus 300 pp. $Aust 29.95).

The term "history wars" came into currency in 1996, in a book of that title about the controversy surrounding a Smithsonian Institution exhibition on the morality of dropping atomic bombs on Japanese cities. But that was simply to attach a label to something that has been happening, in localized outbursts, even before professionalization of the historical discipline. One only has to recall the angst in Germany over the Fischer thesis to realize that the past can be a dangerous place.

The Australian "history wars" have been going on since at least 1984, and this twenty year crisis looks like turning into a thirty year war. What distinguishes the Australian history wars from counterparts elsewhere is not duration or even the levels of acrimony, but the sheer variety of issues, ranging from immigration policy, the 1988 Bicentenary celebrations, indigenous rights and the representation of Aboriginal history, through to school history syllabi and museum display policy. There is, however, the same politicized and polarized situation that characterizes other history wars and the constant of national guilt versus national pride. That is to say, the opposite sides of the Australia history wars are divided into opposing camps comprising left wing proponents of "black-armband" history, who depict the Australian...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A162457500