In the Shadow of War – Australia 1942 A Pivotal Year in Australian History

Professor David Horner, Professor of Australian Defence History in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, will be the keynote speaker at the forthcoming MHHV conference in Melbourne over 21-21 April 2012.

The international history conference, in a first for Melbourne, will feature presentations by some of Australia’s top military, political and social historians, led by Professor Horner, along with historians from the USA and Japan.  The theme of Professor Horner’s keynote presentation is 1942: A pivotal year in Australian history.

In 1942, for the first time modern Australia faced the prospect of foreign invasion.  By any calculation, it was a year of significant events: the fall of Singapore; the return of troops from the Middle East; Japan’s invasion of New Guinea; the attacks on Darwin and Sydney; the mobilisation of military and civilian resources; and the battles of the Coral Sea, Milne Bay, Kokoda and El Alamein.

Professor Horner said, “1942 saw many contentious issues in Australian history, for example what was the capacity of the Curtin Labor Government, to what extent did Australia give up sovereignty when it handed its forces to General Macarthur and did Japan really intend to invade Australia?

Beyond the events and these sorts of issues of 1942, however, it is important to place them in the broader context of Australian history.  To understand what happened in 1942 and why, it is necessary to go back perhaps forty years in Australian history to understand for example, why it was that Australia was exposed and why were its defences so weak?”

Looking at the battles of 1942 we need also to move beyond the rhetoric.  What were the key events that saved Australia from invasion – perhaps the answer lies beyond Australian shores.  Finally, we need discern the legacy for Australia over the following seventy years, for example with regard to our alliance with America and immigration policies. And did 1942 reveal aspects of Australian life about which we should be less proud?”

MHHV president, Colonel Marcus Fielding (Rtd), said, “MHHV is honoured to have Professor Horner as keynote speaker.  There is no doubt that his presentation will be a highlight of a comprehensive coverage of the events and controversies of 1942 as well as what came before and after that pivotal year.  This conference will explore a wide range of aspects of 1942 and will be a great start to Victoria’s first Military History and Heritage Week.”


About Professor David Horner AM, Dip Mil Stud, MA (Hons), PhD
David Horner is the Professor of Australian Defence History in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University.  Born on 12 March 1948, he graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1969 and served as an infantry platoon commander in Vietnam in 1971.  He had various regimental and staff appointments and in 1983 graduated from the Australian Army’s Command and Staff College.  From 1988, until he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel towards the end of 1990, he was a member of the Directing Staff of the Joint Services Staff College.

Professor Horner is the author or editor of 30 books on Australian military history, strategy and defence including High Command (1982), Blamey: The Commander-in-Chief (1998), and Strategic Command, General Sir John Wilton and Australia’s Asian Wars (2005).  He has been a consultant to various television programs and has lectured widely on military history and strategic affairs.  He is the editor of the Australian Army’s military history series.  As an Army Reserve colonel, from 1998 to 2002 he was the first Head of the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre.  In 2004 he was appointed the Official Historian of Australian Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Post-Cold War Operations.  He is the General Editor of this six-volume series and is writing two of the volumes, the first of which, Australia and the ‘New World Order’, was published in January 2011.

He is a member of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal.  In the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to higher education in the area of Australian military history and heritage as a researcher, author and academic.  In 2009 he was appointed official historian for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

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