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“Here comes John Curtin”: The historical consciousness of a journalists’ hero


Caryn Coatney


This article reveals fresh insights into the central, largely unexplored role of journalists as agents of memory for shaping a sense of historical consciousness among public audiences. Journalism has been anchored in the retelling of dramatic stories about heroic characters representing national values. Rüsen (2004) refers to this technique as exemplary narration, which he defines as a type of historical consciousness. This article draws on Rüsen’s theory to provide new views of journalists’ ongoing work in developing the story of an exemplary national hero. Many studies have focused on a single message dominating collective memories. This study shows how journalists helped to create, then disrupt and later reconstruct memories of Australian World War II Prime Minister John Curtin as an example of hope during a major crisis. They developed diverse narratives that portrayed a heroic leader representing national values within the theme of nation building. Recognising exemplary narratives as an ongoing, changing work helps to illuminate journalists’ efforts to orient public views of history that suggest future possibilities.


Collective Memory, History Education, John Curtin, Journalism, WWII

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Date Published

6 March 2023

How to Cite

Coatney, C. (2023). “Here comes John Curtin”: The historical consciousness of a journalists’ hero. Historical Encounters, 10(1), 1-13.


  • First Article in Issue Published 6 March 2023

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0​ License

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