Craig Stockings: Let's Have a Truce in the Battle of the Anzac Myth

Roundup: Talking About History

Craig Stockings teaches history at the University of New South Wales in Canberra.

WHEN I published a book about the Battle of Bardia, fought in North Africa between Australian and Italian troops in January 1941, I received a letter saying I was slighting the Anzac legend and spent too much time with "trendy lefties and feminist lesbians".

"Take a break and just be proud Craig, because those old fellas fought for your right to deny their achievements," the writer said.

As a military historian I know the power of Anzac.

The legend has been a powerful and pervasive force within Australian social and cultural life for almost a century. If anything, as the last Australians with first-hand knowledge of Gallipoli have passed, Anzac imagery and sentimentality has grown stronger.

Whether we consciously recognise it or not, Australians grow up feeding on an overt and subliminal diet of Anzac. Its powerful symbolism permeates all aspects of our community life. School curriculums teach as much of the Anzac mythology as they do of the kernels of historical fact on which the legend is built....

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