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Book Review


Jenny Macleod, Gallipoli. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. xxviii + 254. Bibliography and Index. $29.95 (cloth).


     Jenny Macleod's lively and engaging Gallipoli reminds one of Carl Becker's famed observation that history is comprised of two elements: the actual events which occurred in the past, and the memory of such events, or "the memories of things said and done."1 Though Macleod no doubt would agree with Becker that the actual events cannot be recreated in the exact manner in which they unfolded, she has admirably drawn upon a broad range of primary and a growing body of secondary sources to narrate the various stages of the Gallipoli campaign of World War One (1915-1916) from a variety of perspectives, including that of the multi-national British-led invasion force and the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. In sweeping yet selective fashion many of the key elements of the campaign are present: the bungled planning of Winston Churchill and the British high command in seeking to quickly end the war by striking at Germany's ally, the "sick man of Europe"; the great victory of the Ottoman Empire over British and French naval forces in the Dardanelles; the land invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula, including that of the famed Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) on April 25, 1915; the spirited defense of the Ottoman and German allies; and, the stalemate and ultimate withdrawal of the invasion force. Of particular note is Macleod's incorporation of the perspective of the long-neglected defender and ultimate victor in the campaign; as she notes, increased access to Turkish sources and the translation of such sources has enabled her to build upon a growing body of work to offer a more robust and complete narrative of the campaign (xiii). Macleod's inclusion of a broad range of actors and voices illustrates the transnational character of the campaign. It was a shared human experience, and her transnational perspective opens the door to Macleod's primary consideration, the study of the memories of Gallipoli in some of the nations involved, including Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Ottoman Empire / Turkey.

     Macleod focuses upon the political history of commemoration in the nations studied. "Access to broadly comparable bodies of digitized newspapers," she explains, "from five nations has enabled both breadth of study and a longitudinal comparison of changing perceptions" (xiii). This key observation illustrates the value that technology can bring to bear upon the writing of transnational history. In Macleod's deft hands, it is clear that the memory of Gallipoli and the politics of commemoration are present-minded, malleable, and very much driven by imagined national identities. Harkening back to Becker's observation, we can say that the shared events of the Gallipoli campaign have passed, but the process of remembering such events is an ongoing historical process that continues to generate unique responses in each of the nations involved. In this vein, nation building and memory making clearly are rooted in transnational history.

     In short, each nation has remembered Gallipoli and World War One in its own evolving fashion. Australia and New Zealand enthusiastically embraced the commemoration of Anzac Day (April 25) to burnish their own emerging national identities. Initially dominated by veterans and imbued with notions of the racial superiority of Anglo-Saxon men, Anzac Day has become much more inclusive in recent years as it has come to celebrate and emphasize the contributions of a wide range of actors, including women and immigrants, and in New Zealand the Maori. For Turkey, Gallipoli (aka Cannakkale) played an important though secondary role to the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1923) in the formation of its national identity, of which Mustafa Kemal participated in both. In recent years the historical memory of Gallipoli and World War One has grown in importance in Turkey. The commemoration of Gallipoli has enabled the Turkish government to strengthen its relationships with its World War One antagonists, while the remembrance of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire and its glorious achievements have served to assuage the identity politics that now wrack Turkey, and give inspiration to a nation that wants to assert itself on the global stage. In the midst of grief Britain romanticized the sacrifice of youth at Gallipoli, yet chose to commemorate Armistice Day rather than Gallipoli. Over time the observance of Gallipoli has increased there, though primarily in connection with the Anzacs and on a local level. Not surprisingly, a war that was perceived to have been fought for king and empire was not commemorated at an official level in Ireland after a bloody war for independence from Britain from 1919 to 1921. Continued tension with Britain over Northern Ireland during the 20th century ensured continued lack of official recognition, though with the cooling of tensions interest in the war has increased, as has recognition of the significant role that Ireland played in Gallipoli and World War One. Interestingly, recent Irish commemoration has often focused upon the valor of the soldier rather than the politics of the war.

     One might quibble and question to what degree a study of memories that are shaped by nationalist concerns is transnational, though Gallipoli makes it clear that nationalist histories also can be transnational. Early Australian writings on the campaign by Charles Bean and others forged the Anzac legend and provided the foundation for the remembrance and commemoration of Gallipoli throughout the British Empire. Indeed, right down to the present Gallipoli commemoration in Britain and Ireland is normally identified with Australia (though the British suffered the greatest casualties in the campaign, and the contribution of the Irish was significant). Rooted in the belief that the heroic sacrifice of the Anzacs was a supreme demonstration of the manly strength of the Australian people and the first stirrings of nationhood, the early Anzac legend nevertheless also emphasized the racial superiority of the British people and allegiance to the British Empire. The Anzac legend thus was rooted in an emerging sense of Australian nationalism and a celebration of Australian soldiers, yet is also emphasized a common Anglo-Saxon and Christian identity within the British Empire. Not surprisingly, the implosion of the Empire and the ensuing independence of Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland led each nation in its own unique fashion to shed its common British identity in favor of unique national identities. Such identities, however, have been shaped in relation to the experience of Empire, the First World War, in varying degree Gallipoli, and the unraveling of the Empire. The commemoration of Gallipoli, moreover, is transnational in that nations must cooperate and negotiate with one another to observe it. Turkey, which has boosted its own sense of national greatness through its celebration of Mustafa Kemal's heroic defense of the homeland, regularly hosts various commemorative events for foreigners, including Anzac Day, and has come to emphasize the bond of friendship with Australians and others that they forged through the shared spilling of blood.

     Gallipoli raises numerous comparative issues related to nation building, gender, ethnicity, and religion across time and space that no doubt will spark fruitful class discussion for those that assign it. Very early on Australia favored men, and in particular soldiers, over women in the commemorative process, so much so that even bereaved mothers along with other women were relegated to simply watching commemorative events on Anzac Day, which became Australia's national day. Indeed, the Anzac legend has been identified by numerous scholars as Australia's civil religion. In Britain, on the other hand, it was bereaved women that assumed the dominant role in the commemoration of World War One on Armistice Day (November 11), which became Britain's primary day for remembering the Great War (79). Anzac Day in New Zealand, meanwhile, assumed a solemn, indeed spiritual air, that distinguished it from the more boisterous Australian commemoration of the Anzacs. For the Australian solider, the Gallipoli campaign was steeped in patriotism and a heroic test of manhood; for the New Zealand soldiers, it was a spiritual challenge of sacrifice (111). In Turkey, the remembrance of the World War One era has been especially tempestuous. Its Ottoman, Islamic, and multi-ethnic past has been both suppressed and remembered at a an official level, and the government continues to avoid direct acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide (which coincided with the invasion of Gallipoli).

     This is a valuable book. Seasoned historians and graduate students alike should heed Macleod's methodology, particularly her willingness to utilize Turkish sources that were translated by other scholars; her frank admission that the chapter on Turkey (which represents a significant contribution to the existing literature) was originally written by someone else is both refreshing and a reminder that transnational histories can benefit from greater collaboration amongst historians.

     Lucid in prose, Gallipoli would work well in a variety of undergraduate and graduate level courses, including but not limited to those that focus on world history, historiography, historical memory and nation building, and World War One.

Bradford D. Johnston is an Instructor of History at Pasadena City College. In 2013 he was awarded a Ph.D. by the World Cultures and History Graduate Group (now known as the Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Group) at the University of California, Merced. He can be reached at



1 Carl Becker, "Every Man His Own Historian" (speech, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 29, 1931), American Historical Association,



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