Anzac memories – living with the legend

ANZAC memories book cover

Nearly a century has passed since the events that gave rise to the Anzac legend, but changing social attitudes and the effects of passing time continue to transform our understanding of it.

In a new edition of his 1994 book Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend, Monash University historian Professor Alistair Thomson explores how the Anzac legend has transformed over the past quarter century; how a ‘post-memory’ of the First World War creates new challenges and opportunities for making sense of the national past, and how veterans’ war memories can still challenge and complicate national mythologies.

Professor Alistair Thomson from the University’s School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies said this new edition of Anzac Memories has allowed him to return to his own family’s war history that he could not write about twenty years ago because of the stigma of war and mental illness. He has also reconsidered the lives and memories of the war veterans featured in the original book.

“In researching for this book, I was able to look through newly released repatriation files and it made me question my own earlier account of veterans’ post-war lives and memories,” Professor Thomson said.

“It has made me take a new look at war and memory.”

Anzac Memories was first published to acclaim in 1994, and has achieved international renown for its pioneering contribution to oral history and to the study of war memory and mythology. 

The Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) legend rests upon the assumption that Australia came of age as a nation when the Anzacs landed on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. Anzac Memories reflects on how that legend was created and how working class war veterans came to live with, and sometimes against, the legend of their lives.

The 2013 edition of Anzac Memories features a foreword written by internationally renowned historian Professor Jay Winter. Professor Winter is the Charles J Stille Professor of History at Yale University, where he focuses his research on World War I and its impact on the 20th century. Australian historian Professor Kenneth Inglis, who has written extensively on the Anzac tradition, has also provided comments.

Professor Thomson’s previous books include Anzac Memories: Living With the Legend (1994), The Oral History Reader (1998 and 2006, with Rob Perks), Ten Pound Poms: Australia’s Invisible Migrants (2005, with Jim Hammerton), Moving Storiesan intimate history of four women across two countries (2011) andOral History and Photography (2011, with Alexander Freund).

Anzac Memories: Living with the Legend is available through Monash University Publishing.

Alistair Thomson is Professor of History at Monash University, School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies.

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