The preparation for a coming war and ultimately the commitment to that war was driven by White Australia's sense of vulnerability in the Pacific, by various nightmare scenarios in which Australia could be left to fend for itself, unaided by Britain, and by the determination to have racial purity at almost any cost.
When the war came, finally, the strategy was simple enough: by promising total support the Australians hoped to secure Britain's unequivocal support in return, for a White Australia. They hoped they would not be forsaken.
Dr. Peter Cochrane is a writer of non-fiction, fiction, opinion and travel. His works have won many awards including the Fellowship of Australian Writers' Award for Non-Fiction (1993) for Simpson and the Donkey. He also won the Age Book of the Year and the Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History in 2007 for Colonial Ambition. He lives in Sydney.
‘This careful, detailed account…establishes that an important motive for our participation [in World War I] was the preservation of white Australia from Asian contamination.’ Age
‘A great read, and an important contribution to making forgotten history more accessible—the kind of book that will seep into the national consciousness over time.’ Tim Watts, federal MP and co-author of Two Futures
‘The words “White Australia” and “Anzac" rarely keep company. In this brilliant and provocative reassessment, Peter Cochrane strips away the layers of myth to show that for Australian leaders World War I was a white racial struggle, with fear of Japan and distrust of Britain, as much as loathing of Germany, at its heart. After Best We Forget, Australia’s war should never look quite the same again.’ Frank Bongiorno, professor of history at the ANU and author of The Eighties
‘Revelatory history at its best. Every Australian politician, journalist and high-school student should read this fluent and compelling story that exhumes an unpalatable truth about our motives for going to war in 1914, and reflect on what it tells us about race fear and the value of history.’ Stephen FitzGerald, chairman of China Matters, former diplomat and author of Comrade Ambassador
‘Cochrane sweeps away the myth to expose the uncomfortable racial truth at the heart of Anzac.’ Paul Daley, award-winning journalist and author of Beersheba
‘Unsettling and revelatory…The primary purpose of Cochrane’s fascinating book is to alert readers to the racial dimension of Australia’s participation in World War I. It also addresses the key historiographical question of what is remembered and what is forgotten, and why…He has succeeded admirably in this illuminating book…Illuminating.’ Australian
‘Best We Forget is, quite simply, the most important book on Australia and the Great War to appear in the course of the war’s centenary...Cochrane has made the original and profound connection between Australian racial fears and its participation in the Great War. This is something that—amazingly—no one else has done…Cochrane’s is a most original and illuminating argument.’ Peter Stanley, Honest History