Do we place too much emphasis on the Great War in our understanding of Australian history? At the time of the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, where there is an apparently never-ending deluge of new publications and commemorative events, it may well seem so. Amidst the rhetoric surrounding Anzac, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that today's Australia is the product of a vast range of intertwined histories – of different peoples, parties, genders, of the land, of foreign relations, of economics, and many others. Many historians have suggested that World War I is rather overdone, especially in the commemorative sense.

This lecture will argue the counter-case; that for all of the over-blown rhetoric surrounding Anzac, World War I was fundamental to the experience and development of Australia into the nation it is today. The trauma was too great, and the effects too widespread and significant, for it to be anything but central to the stories we tell about Australia’s past. If the commemoration is exaggerated and historically inaccurate at times, the history of Australia’s experience of World War I must nonetheless remain central to the national story. 

Associate Professor Martin Crotty

Martin is the Head of the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics. An historian, he has written and published extensively in the fields of sports history, the history of masculinity, and Australian society and war.

Martin has also made extensive public comment on Australian commemorations of World War I in particular. He has considerable sympathy for the sentimental elements of the Anzac legend, and has twice the battlefields of the Western Front where his grandfather fought in 1918. Martin argues, however, that the Anzac legend has a “masking effect” in that often obscures the realities of the conflict, and functions to prevent Australians from learning the historical lessons of the conflict. Despite this, Martin believes, contrary to some historians, that the Australian experience of World war One remains central to the Australian story.

Global Leadership Series 2014, Centenary of WW1 from UQ Journalism & Communication on Vimeo.

About Global Leadership Series

The Global Leadership Series (GLS) is a lively program of events for alumni and community members. Join us for lectures and discussions with the best of the best UQ-related speakers on matters that impact your community and shape your ideas of the world.

The series is an opportunity for you to engage with great minds on global matters, participate in thought-provoking discussions and network with UQ alumni and community members. All alumni, parents, community members and friends are welcome to attend the Global Leadership Series events.

Listen to podcasts of previous GLS events click here


UQ Art Museum, St Lucia campus