Peter Yule on Vietnam Veterans and the Victorian Bar

Writing commissioned histories presents different challenges and opportunities to academic history. In this paper I will discuss some of the issues that arise from commissioned histories in the context of my two most recent projects: a history of Australia’s Vietnam veterans since the war and a history of the Victorian Bar. These projects differed greatly in almost every way, from the reasons why they were commissioned to the nature and availability of sources. Finally, I will say something of the broader findings of each project, which are as varied as the mental, physical and financial costs of war on the one hand and the perpetuation of the class structure of Melbourne society on the other.


Peter Yule presented this talk to the SHAPS Fellows & Associates seminar on 30 June 2021. A video recording of the talk can be accessed below.


Peter Yule’s father, George Yule was a student in the History Department in the 1930s and taught in the department in the 1940s and early 1950s. His father became Professor of Church History at Ormond College in 1957 and Peter consequently lived at Ormond from the age of three, attending the kindergarten in the old sports pavilion, and then going to the Teachers College Practising School. He was unaware that alternatives existed after year 12 than to study history at the University of Melbourne. Family circumstances derailed the usual progress to an academic career, and he spent 16 years living in Warrnambool working in his father-in-law’s large newsagency and writing local histories. In 1996 a reference from Geoffrey Blainey led to a commission to write a history of the Royal Children’s Hospital. Since then Peter has written over 20 commissioned histories and biographies on topics as varied as the Collins Class submarine project and the Warrnambool Agricultural Society. His most recent publication is The Long Shadow: Australians Vietnam Veterans since the War (New South Books, 2020).
Feature image: Long Hai, South Vietnam. January 1972. Members of the Australian contingent stand fast during an inauguration parade to welcome them to the Long Hai and Phuoc Tuy Training Centres in Phuoc Tuy Province, 1972. Photographer: William James Cunneen. Australian War Memorial, CUN/72/0002/VN