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Three Australian IS fighters may have been killed in the last month, including Mohammad Ali Baryalei. AAP Image/YouTube

Foreign fighters test the state’s monopoly on violence

Estimates are that there are more than 60 Australian citizens in the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) armies sweeping through Syria and Iraq. In a recent case, reported by the Sydney Morning Herald last…
Instead of dying out, Anti-Semitic myths have withstood the test of time.

The greatest zombie lie ever told

Eight hundred years ago, a monk named Thomas of Monmouth wrote a bogus account of the life of St. William, a Christian boy supposedly abducted by “the Jews” of Norwich. A boy – “like an innocent lamb…
Despite the importance of Remembrance Day in marking the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, it sits below Anzac Day in the estimation of most Australians. AAP/Julian Smith

Lest we forget: why November 11 lives in the shadow of Anzac Day

For all its importance, Remembrance Day, November 11, does not capture the Australian imagination in the way that Anzac Day does, despite the sustained efforts of successive governments to promote the…
A guide to help you shake out some enduring Anzac myths. State Library of South Australia

Ten things you need to know to prepare for the Anzac centenary

The centenary of the Great War has begun. Now, as we move towards the centenary of the Gallipoli landings on April 25 2015 we are gearing up for an extravaganza of Anzac-ery. The combined processes of…
The Slave Trade painted by a French abolitionist artist.

Slavery in America: back in the headlines

Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look…
The Ottoman Chief Eunuch was an influential figure. In this and other caliphates, eunuchs supervised the harem, the princes, the financial affairs of the palace and the mosques, as well as controlling access to the ruler. Photo postcard 1912

Islamic State lacks key ingredient to make ‘caliphate’ work: eunuchs

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed Islamic State (IS) as a Muslim caliphate on June 29, 2014, with himself as caliph, a term reserved for a successor to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). His would be the newest…
A supposedly proud record of generosity to refugees in no way alters the harshness of the government’s present policies. AAP/Stefan Postles

Unfamiliar pasts challenge our view of responses to refugees

How do Australian institutions and political leaders draw on history to tell us who we are? How do they make sense of Australia’s past as a country of immigration and a nation that has accommodated hundreds…
Back in town. BBC/Mandabach/Tiger Aspect/Robert Viglasky

How Peaky Blinders made 1920s Brummies hard but hip

Your living room is in danger of being invaded by criminals with Brummie accents. Not a reason for fitting a new burglar alarm, I hasten to add, but an alert for the BBC’s new series of Peaky Blinders…
With little national history programming at the ABC, Hindsight and Rear Vision are precious. Allan Foster

Axing Hindsight and Rear Vision would be historically shortsighted

Last week it was widely reported that several of the ABC’s best-known programs on television and radio may be axed. Among those under threat is the ABC’s only program solely devoted to history across all…
Percy Wyndham Lewis, A Battery Shelled (1919). ©IWM ART 2747

World War I and the loss of artistic innocence

What the conflict would mean for British art was much debated in World War I – the question was already being asked in journals and newspaper reviews in the latter part of 1914. At the beginning debate…
The term ‘medieval’ is being used by politicians to denote others who do not observe modern ‘civilised’ rules and to whom these rules also do not apply. Flickr/Nuno Martins

‘Medieval’ makes a comeback in modern politics: what’s going on?

According to Hansard, in the parliament of John Howard’s first term of government the adjective “medieval” was used eight times. In the following term, however, it cropped up 46 times. What happened? Why…

Voices from the Old Bailey

The Old Bailey’s Central Criminal Court is an Edwardian building that bears the inscription “Defend the children of the poor and Punish the wrongdoer.” An Italian visitor more than 100 years ago suggested…
Today’s young Australians are the smiling symbols of the embrace of multicultural identity, the nation’s defining moment. Flickr/DIBP Images, Faces of Australia

Modern Australia’s defining moment came long after First Fleet

The culture wars that dominated the narrative during John Howard’s prime ministership have returned with the ascension of his self-described “political love child”, Tony Abbott. While Abbott is sometimes…
Frederick Waddy’s caricature of Anthony Trollope, the man who offended so many Australians with his assessment of our ways. Wikimedia Commons

Celebrity blows: Anthony Trollope and those touchy colonials

The Australian press has long been fascinated by the opinion that visiting celebrities hold about Australia. This obsession was excited by the written observations of Mark Twain, who visited in 1896, and…
The many faces of Edinburgh’s festivals. <p&p>/Flickr

A tale of two festivals: the history of the Edinburgh Fringe

Today, Edinburgh is known around the world for its festivals. Indeed, the Edinburgh International Festival just sold over 13,000 tickets for its first weekend – a new record. But in 1947, when the festival…
After 70 years, Don Carter (back row, fourth from right, with his cousins Darryl Watson in front of him and Donald Carter jnr beside him) finally met his extended family at a reunion in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 2013. Margaret Carter

Children born of war: a neglected legacy of troops among civilians

New kinds of histories are raising alternative stories that temper the celebratory focus of conventional war histories. These are putting new emphasis on the costs of war in economic and human terms, and…
A new exhibition at New Norcia in Western Australia sheds new life on the extraordinary life of the historic township’s founder. New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery

New images of New Norcia, a Spanish mission in the bush

Driving from Perth to New Norcia to see a new exhibition devoted to the township’s founder, Bishop Rosendo Salvado, takes about two hours. It’s an enjoyable trip, cutting through the wide expanse of countryside…
Ready, but not necessarily equipped. Phillip Capper

Was Europe really ready for World War I?

How prepared were the Great Powers for war in 1914? Too often, this question has been answered by pointing to expectations of a short war, and to muddle and inefficiency in its opening stages. The realities…
The First World War has different resonance and meaning across the Commonwealth nations, which should be reflected in the UK and Scottish government’s commemoration plans. EPA/Andy Rain

UK WWI commemorations should embrace Commonwealth experience

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s speech at the recent UK and Commonwealth First World War centenary commemoration subtly emphasised its politicised nature. At no point did he use the term “British…
‘Memorial diplomacy’, on display in June’s D-Day commemorations, is a mode of symbolic soft power politics which uses sites of memory and commemorative events to boost relations. AAP

The WWI centenary in France and the diplomacy of shared memory

When French president François Hollande rose to deliver the keynote address for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings earlier this year, he set in motion an unprecedented five-year cycle of commemoration…

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