New book: 1919: The Year Things Fell Apart?


1919: The Year Things Fell Apart?

By John Lack (ed.)

Published by Australian Scholarly Publishing
RRP $32.95 in paperback * ISBN 9781925984156

Of all the books on my review shelf, this book appealed to me as being the most compelling given the current circumstances.

This collection of papers owes its origin to the annual Research Day of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

Little did they know the theme, which is the title of this book, would less than a year later prove to be uncannily prescient, with its description of the Spanish Flu pandemic and its impact on Australia.

Dr Anthea Hyslop, who specialises in the social history of medicine, writes in ‘Forewarned, Forearmed’ of Australia’s response to the Spanish flu pandemic, citing measures that sound eerily familiar: border closures, quarantining and social and economic hardship, ending with a warning that faster travel would render Australia much more vulnerable to any future pandemic.

Across the range of papers in this collection, we are given a glimpse of many of the issues that occupied society and government at the time.

Ross McMullin writes of the difficult task of repatriating 160,000 Australian soldiers returning to a nation profoundly changed by war.

1919 was to be a year of recovery, laying the groundwork for lasting peace and a better world.

In this collection, we have a snapshot of how that fine ambition failed so spectacularly.

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