Peter Stanley’s The Crying Years: Australia’s Great War


The Crying Years

Australia’s Great War

By Peter Stanley
Published by NLA Publishing
RRP $44.99 in paperback
ISBN 9780642279057

Not your usual examination of the Great War. Historian Peter Stanley collaborated with the National Library (NLA) to access elements of their collection from that period in time. Stanley believes that the Great War was much more than just the battles at Gallipoli or the Western Front and had far reaching effects on all Australians.

In this interview, published on the National Library’s website, Peter Stanley describes the birth of this book and the pleasure he found in researching little used archives of the National Library. LINK HERE FOR THE INTERVIEW.

Stanley believes that the material he has chosen illustrates that “the Great War meant many things for Australians: triumph and tragedy, unity and division, success and failure, loyalty and disloyalty, idealism, pragmatism, opportunism, principle, creative endeavour and many other aspects of humanity that emerge under the stress of extreme experience”.

Using a broad range of items from the NLA’s collection (cartoons, posters, photographs, leaflets, newspaper items etc), Stanley has woven a fascinating narrative around these images. The images illustrate how divided Australia became as the war progressed. He connects the war overseas (battles at Gallipoli, Fromelles, Passchendaele etc) with the equally bitter war at home over the referendum on conscription. The war “killed at least 60.000 men directly … and ruined the health and happiness of many more and brought division and bitterness lasting decades”.

This is a beautifully constructed book, written with sensitivity and accompanied by wonderful imagery.

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