2015 maritime history book prize announced

David Stevens with Chief of Navy, VADM Tim Barrett at the book launch of In All Respects Ready in November 2014

Dr David Stevens with Chief of Navy, VADM Tim Barrett, at the book launch of ‘In All Respects Ready’ in November 2014

The judging process for the 2015 Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book Prize, sponsored jointly by the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and the Australian Association for Maritime History (AAMH), is now complete.

The breadth and outstanding quality of this year’s submissions are a positive reflection of the excellent health of maritime publishing in Australia. We would like to sincerely thank our panel of judges – Peter Ridgway (president of the AAMH), Michael Pearson (emeritus professor of history, University of New South Wales) and Jeffrey Mellefont (Honorary Research Associate of the ANMM and former editor of the museum’s magazine Signals) ­– for willingly undertaking the daunting reading task involved in evaluating our longer than usual ‘short list’!

In all respects ready 9780195578584[1]We are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2015 Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book Prize ($4,000), awarded for a book written in 2013 or 2014 by an Australian author on any aspect of maritime history relating to or affecting Australia, is David Stevens for In All Respects Ready – Australia’s Navy In World War One (Oxford University Press, 2014). This comprehensive and authoritative account details the involvement of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in World War I. In 1914, when war broke out, the RAN was less than one year old, but fully trained and ready, and the most professional and effective force Australia had to offer the British Empire. The book traces Australia’s role in the conflict and how the war helped to forge the country’s naval and national identity.

‘As a reader who is not a specialist in RAN history,’ noted one judge, ‘I found David Stevens’ work quite accessible, detailed, thorough and well enough illustrated to add both to my enjoyment and comprehension. At the same time its solid academic foundation was impressive … For a non-expert, its extensive coverage of the many theatres of the war provides insight into the extent of the RAN’s operations as well as the way the war played out in colonial holdings around the world, far from those more familiar theatres of Europe and the Middle East. David Stevens’ previous contributions to naval history are admirable but this one, I think, is his finest work and the most deserving of a wider audience.’

Another judge called it ‘A comprehensive account of RAN operations in WWI that should stand the test of time as a reference … The book helps to rebalance the better known picture of our army’s contribution to WWI [and] provides analysis with which we can compare the state of the RAN at later times’.

Readings_ArthurPhillipCoverThe first runner-up was Michael Pembroke for Arthur Phillip – Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy (Hardie Grant, 2014), a biography of the first governor of the colony of New South Wales and the man credited with being the founding father of modern Australia. One judge praised the accessibility and broad appeal of this work, saying ‘The subject matter, if we compare it with those chosen by the other finalists, is the most unexpected and original. Yet while it comes almost out of left-field, after seeing and reading it, I’m left wondering why I haven’t previously seen a popular, accessible work (that I know of) devoted so enlighteningly to this figure of such immense importance to Australia’s history. The narrative is compelling, carefully compiled and convincingly unfolded, in an eminently readable style.’ Another judge called it ‘A lively biography of someone most Australians have heard of but have under-appreciated until now … Phillip’s extraordinary life deserved to be written about’.

otago080087[1]The second runner-up was Edward Duyker for Dumont d’Urville: Explorer and Polymath (Otago University Press, 2014). This work traces the life and career of the man who is sometimes called France’s Captain Cook and who effectively helped to precipitate pre-emptive British settlement on several parts of the Australian coast. One judge commented, ‘As we have come to expect from Edward Duyker, this is a thoroughly and meticulously prepared history of one of the giants of French voyaging in the era of “scientific discovery” defined by Cook’. Another judge noted, ‘They rarely come much more comprehensive than this in a single volume. This monumental work about the life and times of one of the last great naval explorers introduces new information about Australia and our region and is well referenced and definitely worth re-reading … The book provides a non-British perspective to exploration and attitudes to Australia and our region as well as insight into revolutionary France.’

The other finalists were Iain McCalman for The Reef – A Passionate History (Penguin, 2014) and Peter Plowman for Voyage To Gallipoli (Rosenberg Publishing, 2013).

The ANMM and AAMH wish to thank all those who nominated, and to congratulate the winner and runners-up.

The award will be presented at the Australian National Maritime Museum on 31 March in conjunction with the annual Phil Renouf Memorial Lecture, at which Dr David Stevens will talk on the topic ‘After Emden: HMAS Sydney’s War 1915–18’. This event is open to the public. Head to the website for more information and to book your tickets.

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