How much do you know about our country’s history? You probably know about Anzac Day and Gallipoli but do you know the stories that came out of that battle? Do you know why your town has its name? Or how it was settled? Do you know about the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land where you live and how they lived before settlement? Knowing our history gives us a greater sense of where we’ve been and an appreciation for the people who have been before us. From famous explorers to quiet achievers, history is full of stories worth telling.
Author Mark Greenwood’s History Mysteries series sets about filling in the blanks of some fascinating and lesser-known events from Australia’s past. We talked to Mark about his obsession with history and his quest to make it interesting and fun for kids.
What history mysteries are you most interested in? I like sharing stories by ‘colouring in’ the past, to give readers a sense of atmosphere and excitement, so they feel connected to characters and events. The mysteries that I’m most interested in are Australian stories – especially little known slices of history.
How do you go about solving the mysteries? To solve these mysteries, I start to research— becoming a detective, sifting through clues, analysing evidence. I begin by studying primary sources—the original documents— the building blocks for everything we know about the story. Secondary sources refer to the writings of other authors who have shared my curiosity for the topic. History is not an exact science. There is so much we simply do not know. Even detailed research leads me to draw conclusions and use my imagination to fill in the blanks.
What sparked your love of history? I wouldn’t have discovered my passion for history if it hadn’t been for a young boy who once asked me, “What is Lasseter’s Reef?” Unravelling the story of Lasseter’s lost treasure of gold spurred on an obsession that has consumed me ever since. Now I’m hooked on history. I’m curious about the past and drawn to learn more about the history of my country.
How do you go about making history interesting for kids? I hope the surprises and adventures readers encounter in my History Mystery series will pose many questions, encourage further investigation and become a springboard for deeper study and learning. Rudyard Kipling once said—“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” I agree with that. Through stories, the past can live and breathe!
Anzac Day is coming up; have you discovered any Anzac stories that most people wouldn’t have heard about? On May 24th, 1915, a brief truce took place between Anzac forces and Turkish troops at Gallipoli in order to bury the dead and recover the wounded lying in 'no-man's land'. The agreement was instigated by a soldier who was led blindfolded through the battlefield. For nine hours the enemies worked alongside each other to complete their sad task.
You visited Anzac Cove while writing Simpson and his Donkey, how did visiting this sacred place help you with the book? Anyone who has been there knows that the site is unique. It was vital for both myself and the book’s illustrator to visit the location in order to interpret it accurately. To stand on that hallowed beach is something I believe all Australians should do once in a lifetime. It is a reflective place of pride and great sadness. I think a visit to Gallipoli gives visitors a deeper understanding of what it means to be an Australian.
What mysteries are you working on at the moment? I’m a history hunter. I enjoy searching for lost explorers and glittering treasure, delving into mysteries and solving famous cold cases. Most of all, I love sharing the stories that I find…and there are so many stories to tell. Right now I’m going back 400 years in time... I’m aboard an old ship, laden with chests of treasure. But something very scary is about to happen! To find out more, readers will have to wait for my next history mystery...