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Textbook achievement for Monash historian

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Senior secondary students will have a novel view of the Gallipoli campaign with the introduction of a Monash historian’s first novel in to the national curriculum.

The novel On Dangerous Ground, written by Chair of History and Australian Studies at Monash University’s National Centre for Australian Studies, Professor Bruce Scates, was selected by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) as a text for senior secondary English Literature students in the non-fiction category.

The novel, which challenges the way we view Gallipoli by interweaving fact and fiction to recreate the most dramatic moments of the campaign, stands as one of nine recommended texts alongside key works by other influential writes such as Margaret Atwood, Virginia Woolf, Patrick White and Tobias Wolff.

Professor Scates said he was humbled and proud his novel had been shortlisted.

“Writing On Dangerous Ground allowed me to explore some very difficult contemporary issues on the memory of war today in a more engaging way than what is perhaps possible with conventional history,” Professor Scates said.

“I’m glad the ACARA has viewed the book as a worthy example and inspiration to English Literature students as they explore the expression of human experience with language.”

On Dangerous Ground follows interlinking events over a period of 100 years: the search in 1915 for missing Lieutenant Roy Irwin by the woman who loved him and the men who fought beside him; the return to Anzac Cove by historian CEW Bean in 1919 to uncover what went wrong with the Gallipoli campaign; and then the quest by Dr Mark Troy in 2015 to save the Gallipoli peninsula from development, which is side-tracked by political intervention and intrigue.

Professor Scates reconstructed the historical setting as accurately as possible to allow each character to speak with a real voice from history and wherever possible he drew directly from actual diaries, letters and official documents.

“I really enjoyed writing this book, but I also felt a deep responsibility,” Professor Scates said.

“With the approach of the Anzac Centenary in 2015, we have to find new and inclusive ways of remembering war and encouraging people to think in deeper and more complex ways.”

Professor Scates is currently lead chief investigator on three separate Australian Research Council grants exploring the contested memory of war. He has been appointed chair of the Military and Cultural History Working Group, one of six expert committees advising the Anzac Centenary Board.

On Dangerous Ground is available through UWA Publishing.