David reviews Robert Bollard’s new book ‘In the Shadow of Gallipoli’
Robert Bollard is an Australian who has written a most impressive book, In the Shadow of Gallipoli, which is so thoroughly researched and well-constructed, it should be required reading for every Australian.
We’re not short of military histories – recent years have witnessed an explosion of titles covering seemingly every aspect of our nation’s involvement in conflicts, major and obscure, through the decades. What distinguishes Bollard’s work is that his discipline of an experienced, professional historian is complemented by a rare ability to coherently integrate the seeming plethora of forces at work, both domestically and globally. He then, having established the context, focuses on the domestic and personal. Such a skill is rare and, like all true ‘professionals’ who fully understand their craft, he makes it appear effortless, whilst communicating in a clear language for laymen.
Bolton’s narrative covers the period 1900–1930 but, as the title suggests, its core event is the Australian Imperial Forces’ (AIF) first landing at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915. However, don’t be misled by the rather intriguing title. Whilst the author takes his reference point from this most iconic event, the canvas which he proceeds to paint is a much broader and more diverse one. What appears, at first glance, to be just another account of our nation’s first major overseas military engagement is much more. It’s a very illuminating analysis of Australian society preceding, during and after World War I. The images on the front cover provide a clue to the true content of Bollard’s work; yes there’s the classic Frank Hurley photo of diggers but, above that, there’s an image of striking railway workers in 1917.
Many of us are fortunate enough to be old enough to have been ‘taught’ at school at least a smattering of Australian history. Sadly, many have missed this golden age; history in general, and Australian history in particular, has largely disappeared from the curricula of schools, both primary and secondary. But as Bollard reminds us, quoting that well-known aphorism, ‘those who forget the lessons of history are destined to repeat the mistakes’. And even those of us who may have previously studied these formative decades of our fledgling nation’s history will appreciate the author’s refreshing insights into the forces shaping our society and, in particular, the industrial and political developments whilst the diggers were fighting and dying overseas.
Bollard’s In the Shadow of Gallipoli is highly recommended. Unlike many ‘history books’, the clarity of his expression and the logic of his style ensures the reader will want to continue to the very last page.
In the Shadow of Gallipoli by Robert Bollard can be purchased for rrp $32.99 by contacting New South Books.
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