Representations of conflict permeate Australian junior historical fiction, including acts of extreme violence, acts of political protest and acts of war both within and beyond the nation’s boundaries. A broad survey of the novels by Australian authors on Australian topics published since 1945 reveals a strong tendency to place children at the centre of significant community, national and international events, or phases of the nation’s past. Since 2000, for example, more than 150 Australian junior historical novels have been published, encompassing subjects as diverse as life on the goldfields in the mid 1800s, racism against Chinese Australians in the early 1900s, and the bombing of Darwin in 1942. As narrators and characters, children negotiate dangerous and challenging circumstances, resolving their problems in a variety of ways. This paper overviews the representation of conflict in junior historical fiction since 1945, identifying both the historiographical implications and the implications for children’s acquisition of knowledge about the past through historical fiction. Inherent within these implications, it will be shown, is the use of historical narrative to construct and convey particular understandings of personal, community and national identities. The paper will also present findings of the author’s pilot qualitative research with children that used the historical novel My Father’s War by Sophie Masson as a stimulus, providing an example of how children’s voices may enrich current conversations around the writing of Australian history and historical fiction.
Kylie Flack, Macquarie University, Australia
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