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We need to explain what happened in the last few months of the war.

Nicole Eustace

From where exactly did the Allied victory emerge? Was the German Army really beaten? Certainly, one underlying truth of the Great War must be driven home: the war finished with the collective armies of France, Britain, America and Belgium achieving total domination over the German Army on the Western Front. In reality, the Allied victory arose from the accumulated strength and proven fighting prowess of the Allied armies, their underlying materiel supremacy and the gradual collapse of German discipline in the face of inevitable defeat, exemplified by the arrival in strength of the American Expeditionary Force in the summer of The defining sequence of events had begun with the French defeat of a last gasp German offensive at the Second Battle of the Marne in July It is the later stages of that decisive series of battles that concern us here.

Germans had fallen back in disarray, taking shelter in the comforting fastness of the Hindenburg Line.

This had served them well in the past—they had high hopes that it would serve them well again and were confident that they could prolong the war into , if not beyond. Yet what do we remember of them? Scant details appear in general books on the war; indeed there is little of relevance in most works devoted solely to Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed.

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The Perils of the Court Historian

On the most fundamental question of the History Wars — the meaning of the Indigenous dispossession — he was actually clearing for himself, and for those many Australians who think and feel as he does, a more comfortable moral—conceptual middle ground, located somewhere between the path-breaking, eye-opening histories of Henry Reynolds and the denialist apologetics of Keith Windschuttle. In this process, one thing at least became clear: Rudd had neither followed the debates in the History Wars with attention, nor internalised the work of the historians of the dispossession.

In his speech, Rudd claimed that the denialists were those who held the black-armband view. This was a telling blunder. This was how Australians thought about their history 50 years ago. Is it conceivable that an American president would even temporarily forget the slavery of the South? It was the great anthropologist WEH Stanner who first noted that the story of how the Aborigines had been defeated and dispossessed had gradually been erased from both the national memory and the conventional histories of Australia.

Stanner also, accordingly, first identified the oddness of the Australian yearning for an unblemished history in which no crimes had been committed and no innocent blood shed.

Rightly, he believed that the silence would not last. At the time Stanner alerted the nation to the strangest and most revealing dimension of its identity, Charles Rowley was writing the first systematic history of the dispossession, The Destruction of Aboriginal Society. In the years following, hundreds of further studies were written. As in all such endeavours, these were of unequal quality.

Eventually, with Henry Reynolds, a truly first-rate historian of the dispossession emerged. By the s, there was good reason to believe that the nation was in the process of coming to terms with its past and that this process had progressed so far as to be irreversible.

Procopius | Byzantine historian |

This judgement was premature. From the mids, a counter-revolution concerning the interpretation of the dispossession was mounted.

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  • Initially driven mainly by miners fearful of national land-rights legislation and expressed most sharply in the speeches of the head of Western Mining, Hugh Morgan, it began not with historical revisionism, but with plainly racist denigration of traditional Aboriginal culture of a kind not heard in Australia for decades. It continued into the early s, at the time of the Mabo judgement and the Native Title Act , with attacks on the un-Australian treachery of the High Court judges and the prime minister, Paul Keating.

    They did so mainly because of the steady covert support offered by the Howard government and the enthusiastic overt support offered by the Murdoch press, in particular by its flagship, the Australian. Yet, even more than this needs to be said. If the Great Australian Silence had not been a potent ingredient in our political culture for a century or more, and if there had not existed in Australian society a deep yearning for a history in which no serious crimes against the Aborigines had been committed — both during the settlement of the land and in the period after the forcible dispossession was complete — the counter-revolution of the mids could not have been mounted and the full-blown History War that followed the Quadrant- led campaign and the publication of Fabrication could not have broken out.

    For a cultural fire to ignite, combustible material must exist. On the question of the History Wars, then, the prime minister is wrong. The battles were not rooted in arid scholarly disputes and easily avoidable polarities. They were rooted, rather, in the as-yet-unresolved fact that — even after 40 years of scholarship — there is still a deep desire among many Australians to avert their gaze from the history of what happened during the long dispossession and to think of their country as largely innocent of wrongdoing.

    They will not end, even though the Howard government is history and the Australian has lost interest in their prosecution.