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15 April 2011
Professor of International History at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Christ's College, David Reynolds, will offer Australians a fresh and topical take on familiar history just in time for ANZAC Day in his lecture The Two World Wars and the Meaning of the 20th Century this Tuesday, April 19.
Professor Reynolds' free lecture, part of The Alfred Deakin Research Institute's "Fusion" Lecture Series, 2011, will set Anzac Day and the development of national identity in a global context.
Professor Reynolds has been compared to the likes of Simon Schama for his ability to present familiar history in new and interesting ways and has presented documentaries for BBC TV on former British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, US President Richard Nixon, and on Summits: Six Meetings that Shaped the 20th Century; also for BBC Radio 4 (America, Empire of Liberty) on the development of the United States."
"All the countries who fought in the Great War tried to give meaning to the slaughter, but they did so in contrasting ways," Professor Reynolds said.
"Germany, for instance, simply denied its defeat in 1918, while Soviet Russia blotted out the whole war from public memory.
"And 1914-18 looked different after another great war in 1939-45.
"For France, the humiliation of 1940 made the sacrifice of 1914-18 seem more heroic; across the Channel the celebration of Britain's 'finest hour' made the carnage of 'the war to end all wars' seem even more pointless."
Professor Reynolds said the British now tend to forget that victory in both world wars depended not just on American help but also the contribution of the British Empire as a whole, not least Australia.
"Likewise 21st-century Australians, used to the familiar pommie-bashing on and off the sports field, may be less familiar with the way their grandparents thought of themselves, in Alfred Deakin's words, as 'independent Australian Britons'," he said.
"It was when the ties of empire waned with Britain's turn to Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, that Anzac Day began to take on its modern colour."
Director of the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Professor David Lowe, said The Fusion lecture series featured prominent thinkers on current public policy issues, and is named in recognition of the intellectual and political legacy of Alfred Deakin, Australia's second Prime Minister and a leading figure in Australian federation.
"The Fusion lectures draw inspiration from Alfred Deakin in bringing different disciplines to bear in interpreting and responding to global and regional change," he said.
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