Volume IV of the peacekeeping official history series launched

21 March 2019

The fourth volume in the Official History of Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post–Cold War Operations, The limits of peacekeeping, was officially launched today at the Australian War Memorial by His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), Governor of New South Wales and Governor-General Designate.

Volume IV explores the Australian government’s peacekeeping efforts in Africa and the Americas from 1992 to 2005. Under the general editorship of Professor David Horner of the Australian National University, the publication covers peacekeeping missions since 1947, other operations from the 1980s and beyond, and overseas emergency relief missions since 1918.

The limits of peacekeeping highlights Australia’s changing views of peacekeeping in the period after the Cold War. Shifting world power structures and increased international cooperation saw a boom in Australia’s peacekeeping operations between 1991 and 1995. The initial optimism of this period proved to be misplaced, as the limits of the United Nations and the international community to resolve deep-seated problems became clear.

Dr Jean Bou said that while the project was a monumental task, he is honoured to have had the opportunity to place on the national record the experiences of so many Australians.

“Peacekeeping has been a significant part of Australia’s diplomatic, military, and international policing efforts since the late 1940s. The missions of the 1990s represented a high-water mark of our involvement, but it was also a period when difficulties became increasingly apparent for both Australia and the international community.

“I and the other authors have sought to focus on the efforts that were undertaken to highlight the approach and thinking of Australian governments in a tumultuous time, while also examining the experiences of individual Australians who served as peacekeepers in some key missions,”  said Dr Bou.

Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson said it is a long-standing role of the Australian War Memorial to ensure our history is recorded, a practice that began with the 12 volumes of Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, written and edited by Charles Bean, Australia’s first official war correspondent.

“Every now and then we get to work on something that makes a real difference, and telling these stories has a significant positive effect on the men and women who served in peacekeeping missions. Australia played a key role when the time came to step in and assist with peacekeeping missions around the world, specifically in Somalia and Rwanda.”

“These remarkable men and women responded to the call without hesitation to ensure peace was maintained. Their stories are an example of those we will be able to tell in more intimate detail in years to come through the Memorial Redevelopment Project,” said Dr Nelson. 

Granted full access to all relevant government files, Dr Jean Bou, Associate Professor Bob Breen, Professor David Horner, Dr Garth Pratten, and Ms Miesje de Vogel expertly interweave the personal narratives of those who served with the geopolitical climate of the time.

The book retails at $125 and is available at the Australian War Memorial Shop, online, and at good bookstores nationally.