Greg Lockhart

Greg Lockhart

is author of The Minefield: An Australian Tragedy in Vietnam (2007), which was short listed for the New South Wales Premier’s Prize.

About Greg Lockhart

Greg Lockhart is author of The Minefield: An Australian Tragedy in Vietnam (2007), which was short listed for the New South Wales Premier’s Prize. His essays on Australian historiography include ‘Absenting Asia’ in Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian century (2012) and ‘Barrier Thinking’ in Griffith Review 48: Enduring Legacies (2015).

Articles about Greg Lockhart

Articles by Greg Lockhart

At The Limits of Liberalism: The Enigmatic Mr Deakin

Why then is Brett’s new biography important? It is important, because, written with conspicuous skill and economy, it is the leading continuation and affirmation of Deakin’s liberal-progressive life and work in our own troubled times of short parliaments and major geopolitical changes – the rise of China at a time of uncertainty about US leadership in the world today. It is important because, in those ways, it offers the most rational defence of Deakin’s nation against the changes he already saw the need to guard it against. But while the biography presents the face of liberal reason and a sharp, though still sympathetic psychological and political portrait, it generates a certain silence. Its greatest importance may indeed be that it takes us to the limits of its liberal comfort zone. For at that limit, it becomes possible to see how the biography’s minimal history represents the ongoing liberal denial of the geopolitical reality that was a mainspring of federation.

Into the Jaws of the Monster: Fromelles and Pozières, 1916

Roger Lee’s The Battle of Fromelles and Meleah Hampton’s Attack on the Somme are part of a relatively recent shift in the focus of Australian military history: they revisit big battles on the Western Front, which few works have done since Charles Bean’s Official History (1921-42). It’s as though, inflated with myths of Gallipoli, our Great War literature has had little use for strategic reality. Perhaps it takes a century to get clear of the revulsion aroused by the killing in that war – which Bean blocked out by writing the original romance of it as heroic achievement.

Gallipoli Reckoning

On Anzac Day, Australian culture anticipates what it confirms: the sending of long-range military expeditions to encourage and support wars in which British or American forces are engaged. Just as there is no serious parliamentary debate over decisions to go to war in the political culture, no interest in ‘war powers’ reform, which might minimise that power in the executive as there has been in Britain, there is little if any questioning of these issues in Australian literary culture either. As Chris Roberts elegantly concludes, Bean’s romance of Anzac excuses our Gallipoli failure by turning ‘failure into heroic achievement’ – or, we could say, by functioning to institutionalise ignorance of our imperial history in a romance that hides behind the false and misleading glory that the nation was born at Gallipoli.

The Grand Deception cover

Churchill’s Silver Bullet: The Grand Deception by Tom Curran

‘We all have an idea that the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns did not turn out well. Dealing with that failure has after all helped to shape the Australian identity. It has given us the Anzac tradition, which rests on a story of heroism in defeat. In his new book on Churchill and the Dardanelles campaign, Tom Curran gives us a penetrating new account of the inception and failure of those campaigns, and so takes us into areas Australian historians have tended to overlook.’

Hell Bent Cover

Imperial Romance: Broken Nation & Hell-Bent

Beaumont refers to the expectation that if Britain declared war ‘Australia and the other dominions would follow’. She says, wrongly, that ‘the Cook government accepted the British decision without question’ and uses the term ‘consensus’ to describe the political foundations on which the troops went to war. This misconception is characteristic of the imperial romance that still influences the writing of Australia’s Great War history.