Contesting Australian History – Essays in Honour of Marilyn Lake


Contesting Australian History

Essays in Honour of Marilyn Lake

Edited by Joy Damousi and Judith Smart 

RRP $34.95 in paperback
Published by Monash University Publishing
ISBN 9781925835069

In December 2016 a Festschrift – a wonderful German word meaning ‘a collection of writings published in honour of a scholar’ – was held in Melbourne over two days to celebrate the outstanding career and achievements of Marilyn Lake, professor of history at, first, La Trobe University and later University of Melbourne. (Both in the state of Victoria in Australia).

Over her illustrious career, Marilyn Lake’s books and other scholarly writings have ranged over a number of themes within Australian social, cultural and political history – and the interdependence of that history with those of Britain, the US and the Asia–Pacific.

Of particular interest for readers of this blog is the work she did in relation to the impact of war on Australia and the history of Anzac.

In Contesting ‘Anzacery’ – Marilyn Lake and Envisioning Australian Nationalism, Stephen Garton, professor of history at the University of Sydney, describes Marilyn Lake’s role (among others) in countering what was widely expected to be an ‘avalanche of trite mythologising’ as the 100thanniversary of the commencement of the war approached.

He contends that Marilyn Lake’s contribution to our understanding and interpretation of what Anzac really means to Australia is among her most significant work in the history discipline.

This book, though, is a tribute to her work and a recognition of her enduring influence and leadership in the profession across a broad range of historical topics, not just military history.

This book is likely to be of interest to anyone wanting to understand the work that underpins the broad topic that is Australian history and Marilyn Lake’s influence on that discipline in Australian academia. The list of contributors contains some significant names including as it does eminent historians from across a broad range of interests.

Footnote: Looking at this book, I would challenge Monash University Publishing to invest a bit more in cover design in future. Such a distinguished subject warranted a better cover photograph, in my opinion.  

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