Henry Reynolds is one of those historians derided for their ‘black armband’ views. He has written on frontier violence against indigenous Australians and in Unnecessary Wars (New South) he writes on the not unrelated topic of the place of war in the Australian psyche. Australians think of themselves as an easy-going people, but the eagerness to get involved in foreign wars suggests we are actually a nation of warmongers, due possibly to a combination of adventurous spirit, jingoism and a national inferiority complex . Reynolds argues that the Boer War – a war most Australians know little about, and hardly a defensive war – set the scene for a century’s worth of military adventurism and began the mythology that war has ‘made’ the Australian nation (in turn, making it unpatriotic to question going to war). He is scathing about the blind acceptance of money being endlessly poured into commemoration, and the accompanying unthinking rhetoric. And, contrary to popular opinion, Reynolds outlines a long tradition of dissent against blindly following our allies into conflict, a tradition that we might want to maintain, in order to protect both our military personnel and our international reputation.


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