In the latest issue of History in the Making, Emily Gallagher, a fourth year undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, published an article on the neglect of atrocities in Australian historical writing about World War I.
In a short author interview, she explains the pleasures of studying history, the struggle to fairly write about the darker aspects of Australia’s wartime history, and her fascination with Australia’s official historian of World War I, C.E.W. Bean.
Why did you choose to study history?
History is humbling. An epistemology where dissatisfaction dominates your professional and private practice. For me, to study history is to rebel against inadequacy, deny the impossibility of the task, and participate in a type of story telling that never ends. This is truly an exciting, often intoxicating, cause.
What questions do you still have about the topic of your research?
Like all historical studies, my research is fundamentally unfinished. Time is not fixed and the boundaries of my published research are exponentially expanding. Of all the questions that have persisted and emerged I would like to know ‘how’, how can we teach the atrocities committed by Australian soldiers in war to overcome the glorification of the Anzacs without desecrating their memory? This is a question I intend to answer.
What advice would you give to someone considering submitting an article to the journal?
Don’t conform to the popular. There is no history or historiography more valuable than another, embrace your passion, however unconventional it may be. In the words of Raphael Samuel: ‘the contours of national past are continually changing shape. Mountains turn out to have been molehills while conversely tumuli, as they appeared at the time, may seem, on a longer view, to be foothills of a mighty peak.’
How do you juggle your studies and the rest of your life?
It is my perfectionism that supports me most powerfully to ensure I balance all the important aspects of my life. My personal best is achieved when I ensure I have an active, socially rich and political engaged lifestyle. Practically, I function incredibly well on six hours of sleep. This has certainly been a great fortune in enabling me to gain the extra time needed to pursue my academic ambitions without jeopardising my social, sporting and employment opportunities.
What’s your favourite history book?
I love books and I can faithfully say I have no favourite. But, theoretically, if I had to nominate a ‘history book,’ I am currently enthralled by Edward Said’s book, Orientalism.
You’re hosting a dinner party. Which three figures are invited?
My first guest comes to mind effortlessly, C.E.W. Bean. Australia’s official war correspondent for the First World War, Bean is a character that has left an imposing legacy on the writings of this nations official history. Bean is not a flawless historian, however his histories remain the defining character of academic, public and political Australian Anzac history. He is secretly loved by many Australian historians. Secondly, I would love to see my Grandfather again, simply because I miss him. Lastly, (excluding the issue of his thick German accent) I – like many others – think dinner with Albert Einstein would guarantee good conversation.