Peter Stanley

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Peter Stanley
Full name Peter Alan Stanley
Born (1956-10-28) 28 October 1956 (age 58)
Liverpool, England
Institutions University of New South Wales (2013–)
National Museum of Australia (2007–13)
Australian War Memorial (1980–07)
Alma mater Australian National University
Thesis White Mutiny: The Bengal Europeans, 1825–75, A Study in Military Social History (1993)
Doctoral advisor Iain McCalman
Main interests
Australian military history
British medical history
Notable awards
Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History (2011)
Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (2014)[1]

Peter Alan Stanley FAHA (born 28 October 1956) is an Australian historian and Research Professor at the University of New South Wales in the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society. He was Head of the Centre for Historical Research at the National Museum of Australia from 2007–13. Between 1980 and 2007 he was an historian and curator at the Australian War Memorial, including as head of the Historical Research Section and Principal Historian from 1987. He has written several books about Australia and the Great War since 2005 (Quinn's Post, Anzac, Gallipoli, Men of Mont St Quentin, Bad Characters and Digger Smith and Australia's Great War, with others in train).

Early life and education[edit]

Stanley was born in Liverpool, England on 28 October 1956 to Albert Edward Stanley and his wife Marjorie Patricia. The family emigrated to Australia in 1966 and settled in the South Australian city of Whyalla, where Stanley was educated at the local high school.[2] In 1975, he relocated to Canberra to attend the Australian National University (ANU).[3] After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1977, Stanley gained a Graduate Diploma of Education from the College of Advanced Education, Canberra (now the University of Canberra),[2] and initially embarked on a career as a secondary teacher; a decision he later termed a career "false start".[3] He abandoned teaching to assume a position at the Australian War Memorial in 1980, and returned to the ANU to complete a Bachelor of Letters (1984) and a Doctor of Philosophy (1993).[2]

Stanley has been married to Claire Cruickshank since 2009. He has two daughters through a previous marriage to Mary-Ann Capel.[2]

Historical career[edit]

Stanley has published twenty five books, mainly in Australian military history, with a strong bent towards social history. He has also written on the military history of British India, and has published a book on British surgery in the final decades of surgery before the introduction of anaesthesia, and on the effects of bushfire on an Australian community. His writing expresses his concern to integrate operational and social approaches within military history and relates in one way or another to the theme of human experience in extreme situations.

His historical ventures also include leading the Memorial's Borneo battlefield tour, 1997; Commentator, ABC television broadcast of Anzac Day march, Sydney, 1998–2001; Historical advisor, television series Australians at War (Beyond Productions, 1999–2001); Commentator, Anzac Day national ceremony, Canberra, 2002–06; Leader, Australian War Memorial-Imperial War Museum Joint Study Tour to Crete and Egypt, Sep 2002; Presenter, Revealing Gallipoli, December Films, Apr 2005; Participant, National Summit on History Education, Canberra, Aug 2006; Commentator, ABC television broadcast national ceremony Anzac Day, Canberra, 2007–10. In 2008 he appeared in the documentaries Monash: the Forgotten Anzac and the 4 Corners report on The Great Great History War and Wain Fimeri's recent Charles Bean's Great War. In 2011 he participated in the Shine/Channel 9 series In Their Footsteps as an historical consultant and an on-screen presenter, and contributed to an episode of Who do you think you are? in 2013.

Stanley has been a major participant in a public debate regarding the "Battle for Australia", contesting opinions that events in Darwin in 1942 during the Second World War represented Japan's intention to invade Australia. He argues that the wartime slogan of a 'battle for Australia', used by John Curtin in February 1942 in anticipating invasion by Japan, was taken up in the mid-1990s and applied unjustifiably.

In his work at the National Museum of Australia Stanley wrote a book about the effects of the 2009 bushfires on a small rural community in Victoria, Black Saturday at Steels Creek (published in 2013 by Scribe Publications). He is contributing to a volume on Australia and the Great War in the 'new Bean' series for Oxford University Press, and part of a chapter in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Australia.

Stanley also writes as a freelance author. A recent book is a novel for children, Simpson's Donkey (Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2011). Future books include Fortitude, a revised popular edition of his 2003 book For Fear of Pain, and Lost Boys of Anzac, a book looking at the men of the 3rd Brigade who died on 25 April 1915. One of his most recent military history books, surveying the Australian experience of the Great War, is told entirely through the lives and words of people called Smith or Schmidt – Digger Smith and Australia's Great War published by Murdoch/Pier 9 in October 2011. Stanley published Lost Boys of Anzac with NewSouth in 2014, and Die in battle: Do not Despair: Indians on Gallipoli, 1915 with Helion (UK) in 2015. He is also editing Welch Calypso, Tom Stevens's memoir of his time in the West Indies in the early 1950s, also for Helion.

In 2001, Stanley criticised the ABC Television mini-series Changi, claiming that the program was an in-accurate and misleading portrayal of the Second World War POW camp in Singapore.[4]


Starting in 1977—and as at 2015—Stanley has written 24 books and edited four others, published two novels and co-authored a booklet, and composed at least 24 chapters in books and anthologies, 58 journal articles, seven encyclopaedia entries and numerous papers. In 2011, his book Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny, Murder and the Australian Imperial Force (2010) was the joint winner of the Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History.[5]


  1. ^ "Stanley, Peter". The Academy Fellows. Australian Academy of the Humanities. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Prof. Peter Alan Stanley". Who's Who in Australia Online. Connect Web. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "About me". Peter Stanley. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Two books share the spoils in 2010–11 Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History". Press release. The Hon Peter Garrett MP. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 

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