Australians at Home World War I – we manufactured enemies 100 years ago


Australians at Home
World War I
By Michael McKernan

Published by The Five Mile Press
$34.95 in hardback
ISBN 9781760063689

Back in April when I wrote about Michael McKernan’s Australians at Home World War II, I neglected to mention the companion title covering World War I. Once again this is a republication of a book that first appeared in 1980 under the title ‘The Australian People and the Great War’.

It’s interesting to hear from Michael McKernan how he came to be interested in the topic – lunch time reading during his doctoral research period at the Australian War Memorial.

This book is unchanged from that which was published in 1980. In the intervening years, McKernan admits there are now topics that should have been covered – Australian nurses, for example, and the contribution of the indigenous Australians – but he chose not to update the original text.

Chapter 7 deals with Manufacturing the War: ‘Enemy subjects’ in Australia and the appalling treatment of German settlers, who represented no threat at all. It was the reason my grandfather – a Swiss national with a German name – found himself in the Middle East, having volunteered to go overseas, even though he already had six Australian children, rather than face internment.

I have to say that ‘manufacturing an enemy’ goes on to this day in political circles.

It is a book for a broad audience. Anyone who has been unsuccessfully searching secondhand bookstores for the original will be pleased to see it back in publication.

Michael McKernan is now a well known historian and writer. For more than a decade he has led tours to First and Second World War battlefields.

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