Girls, patriots and pacifists: recent Australian screen histories of WWI

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2014 marked the centenary of the outbreak of World War One (WW1), but in Australia, it was merely the warm-up for 2015, which will feature a parade of commemorative events of all kinds. There is intense interest in the history of WWI, and especially Australia's role in it, an interest that has been steadily climbing since the 1970s. There are many explanations for the 'Anzac revival': new kinds of history writing, the growth in genealogy, new understandings of war and war trauma, the new nationalism of the late twentieth century, and the influence of film and television. We know that viewing film and television is one of the most common ways that people engage with the past. These screen histories are potent sources of historical knowledge, with the power to spark conversations about history and its place in contemporary society. In this article I will focus on two recent screen histories of Anzac and WWI: the drama Anzac Girls and the documentary The War that Changed Us, both produced for the ABC, and both broadcast in August-September 2014. These are the first in a host of television programs and films slated for release in late 2014-2015, including Russell Crowe's film The Water Diviner, the Nine network's miniseries Gallipoli, and Showtime's The Gallipoli Story. I will place Anzac Girls and The War that Changed Us in their historical and cultural contexts, and consider the ways that both programs attempted to expand the parameters of the Anzac legend on the eve of its centenary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-10
Number of pages7
JournalTeaching History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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