Fahrenheit 451

by Henry Farrell on February 26, 2004

John Q. “talks about”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001403.html Britain’s addiction to Official Secrets. This reminds me of a bit from Margaret Levi’s _Consent, Dissent and Patriotism_, where she discusses the politics of military archives.

bq. More arcane is the account of a small fire that destroyed relevant materials from World Wars I and II in the Australian War Memorial. The representatives of the British government operate under strict rules of secrecy concerning a very large amount of military-related material, and they uphold those rules rigorously. The Australian government operates with a greater openness. The problem arose because in the Australian War Memorial were records that the British deemed secret and the Australians did not. The problem was resolved by the British, or so my reliable source tells me, by planting a mole archivist in the War Memorial. This mole lit a small fire in the relevant stacks and then disappeared.

On a more personal note, John also namechecks the novelist and politician Erskine Childers, who was executed under dubious circumstances in 1922 by the Irish Free State government, with only my and Maria’s great-grandfather, Eoin MacNeill, “dissenting”:http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m0FQP/n4297_v125/18629541/p1/article.jhtml from the decision. Today seems to be the “day”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001400.html for office-holding ancestors on CT.



james 02.27.04 at 12:12 pm

To continue with some exclusive intra-Irish chat, that must make you related to Michael McDowel, the Minister for Justice. Also, you might know Kay MacNeill, related to your great-grandfather by marriage?


Henry 02.27.04 at 4:45 pm

Yep – Mike is my uncle. Obviously, we have our political differences, but get on extremely well. He’s a good man over a pint. Kay MacNeill sounds familiar, but I’m not sure precisely who she is; it’s a big clan, and I’m not as familiar with the family tree as I might be. Ah, the ancient Irish ritual of ‘placing you.’


Chris Borthwick 03.01.04 at 4:55 am

The War Memorial story seems unlikely, in that it posits an Australian willingness to defy great and powerful friends. When my father retired from the Department of Foreign Affairs he was occasionally called back to do declassifiaction tasks, and one of the things he found was that the Americans generally objected to the Australians releasing under FOI any information involving America even when it would have been accessible under American FOI – indeed, even when the Americans had already released it in America. The problem was not the information; the problem was who was to be master. And the Department invariably buckled under.
Admittedly, the Americns do have more clout in Canberra than the British, but even so.
Though it has to be said that the thought of James Bond doing his ocker librarian shtick does appeal strangely.

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