Antony Beevor heads distinguished line-up at Memorial history conference
Acclaimed British author and Second World War historian Antony Beevor will deliver the keynote address at the Australian War Memorial’s annual history conference to be held in Canberra in September.
Beevor, the author of international bestsellers Stalingrad, Berlin and D-Day, is the inaugural Boeing Visiting Fellow to the international conference, titled Kokoda: Beyond the Legend, and convened to mark the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda and Papuan campaigns in 1942. He heads a distinguished line-up of historians and emerging scholars from Britain, the United States, and Australia attending the two-day event.
“This conference features some of the leading scholars in the field, with international reputations,” says Australian War Memorial historian Dr Karl James. “Bringing them together in Canberra for the Memorial’s conference is a great coup.”
The aim of the conference is to reassess the principal battles fought in Papua and discuss the campaign from both the Allied and Japanese perspectives. According to James, “this is a unique opportunity to bring together leading historians from around the world to assess Papua’s significance to the global war while also getting into the real tactics – the mud and blood – of the campaign”.
Beevor’s latest book is a single-volume history of the Second World War. In it he weaves together the story of the conflict in its entirety to show how one theatre of war influenced events in other regions, while detailing the fate of ordinary soldiers and civilians in Europe, the North Atlantic, and Northern Africa, as well as in the South Pacific. His appearance at the conference is a rare opportunity for Australian followers to see him speak.
James says Beevor’s keynote address on “The World at War, 1942” will be a highlight for conference attendees seeking to place the story of Kokoda in a broader context. “Kokoda has become a major focus of Second World War commemorations in Australia, and the campaign dominates our popular memory. But it is rarely discussed in terms of its strategic role in the wider war effort. Antony Beevor will enlighten the audience on events occurring concurrently with Kokoda, and the links between them.”
Other guest speakers attending the conference include the acclaimed historian Richard B. Frank, who has written several books on the Pacific War. He will give an address on “South Pacific turning points: Guadalcanal, Kokoda and Milne Bay” at the conference dinner.
Another military historian attending from the United States is Dr Edward J. Drea, who works with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A former soldier who served in Japan and Vietnam, Drea will deliver an address titled “Making Soldiers: training, doctrine, and culture in the Imperial Japanese Army” during the Second World War. The conference program also includes renowned American naval historian John B. Lundstrom, and James Zobel from the MacArthur Memorial, who will speak about Douglas MacArthur’s controversial command in Papua in 1942.
Esteemed Australian military historian Professor David Horner will give an address on Kokoda and its place in Australian history. Horner is the official historian and general editor for the Official History of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post–Cold War Operations, as well as Professor of Australian Defence History at the Australian National University’s Research School of International, Political and Strategic Studies. Other Australian historians who will speak at the conference include Dr Mark Johnston, of Scotch College Melbourne, who will speak on the air war over Papua; Dr Peter Williams, who will address the question of the strength of the forces engaged on the Kokoda Trail; and Dr James, who will present “A terrible experience: the battle of Eora Creek”.
There will also be speakers from Japan and Papua New Guinea. “Including Japanese and Papuan voices in the conference reflects a more sophisticated and inclusive approach to thinking about Australian military history,” says James.
The Australian War Memorial’s international history conference Kokoda: Beyond the Legend is on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 September, 2012. Tickets to the conference are limited and are selling fast. For program details and to register, go to http://www.awm.gov.au/events/conference/2012/