C.E.W. Bean Prize

C.E.W. Bean Prize

CEW Bean Prize for Military History

The 2021 CEW Bean Prize for Military History closed 5pm 30 July 2021

AWM P07694.008 Australian War Memorial - Informal group portrait of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) at ease on their Bushmasters at Camp Holland (Multinational Base Tarin Kowt) Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.
AWM P07694.008 Australian War Memorial - Informal group portrait of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) at ease on their Bushmasters at Camp Holland (Multinational Base Tarin Kowt) Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.
Informal group portrait of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) at ease on their Bushmasters at Camp Holland (Multinational Base Tarin Kowt) Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. 
AWM P07694.008 - Australian War Memorial.

For more information on how to apply, see below or contact ahu.enquiries@defence.gov.au

About the CEW Bean Prize

The CEW Bean Prize for Military History is named after the prominent Australian military historian, Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean (1879-1968). At the outbreak of war, Bean was selected as the official correspondent attached to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), travelling with the first contingent from Fremantle to Egypt. Going ashore at Anzac on 25 April, Bean reported on the Gallipoli campaign, earning respect amongst the military for his personal bravery and the despatches he wrote. Following the evacuation in December 1915, Bean compiled and edited The Anzac Book.

From the first engagement in France in July 1916 through to the end of 1918, Bean reported on the activities of the AIF on the Western Front. His first hand observations and relationships with the key figures involved in the AIF’s campaigns and battles assisted him with writing The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. That monumental undertaking consumed much of his life until the final volume was published 1943. Bean had personally written six of the volumes as a fitting way to commemorate the achievements and sacrifice of the soldiers of the AIF – a body of men that he greatly admired and that his writings bear testament.

The CEW Bean Prize for Military History is awarded jointly to the best honours and postgraduate theses submitted in any Australian university focusing on the history of the Australian Army. The Prize was established in 2004 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Australian Army History Unit and its aim is to foster and encourage the study of military history and heritage at a tertiary level.

The Award consists of:

  • $500 in cash;
  • an inscribed medallion;
  • return travel (where possible) for the winner to attend the Chief of Army History Conference and Conference Dinner the year of the award, where the Prize will be presented by the Chief of Army; and  
  • two years’ complimentary attendance to the Chief of Army History Conference.

The prize is judged by external historians appointed by the Australian Army History Unit. The winners in both the honours and postgraduate categories will be notified at the conclusion of the assessment and all applicants will receive feedback from the assessors.

For enquiries or further information, please email ahu.enquiries@defence.gov.au


How to apply

The CEW Bean Prize invites applications from Honours and Postgraduate students who have completed their thesis in the previous three calendar years (the 2021 prizeis open to all theses submitted in 2019, 2020 and 2021). Applications should focus on the history of the Australian Army and have been submitted to an Australian University.

Theses entered in previous years are ineligible to apply. However if you have submitted an application in the Honours Division, you are still eligible to submit your Postgraduate thesis at a later stage. Application form, thesis and examiners’ reports are to be submitted to ahu.enquiries@defence.gov.au

Please use this application form to submit your thesis for consideration. 2021 CEW Bean Prize Application Form


2020 CEW Bean Prize Winners

The winning theses for the 2020 CEW Bean Prize for Military History have been selected.  The independent assessment panel were extremely pleased with the quality of applications received for 2020. The Australian Army would like to congratulate the two winners:

Elizabeth Heffernan

‘Oh for Places – Green Oases -’: Australian Soldiers and the Environment of the First World War

Honours, University of Sydney

This is a beautifully written and thought-provoking thesis, with consistently strong arguments, thorough analysis and insightful conclusions. The focus of the thesis is clearly on the history of the Australian Army, and its contribution to that history is substantial. This thesis uses 40 diaries held by the Mitchell Library to examine Australian soldiers of the First World War and their reactions and relationship with the environment of the war, largely in Egypt and on the Western Front. Heffernan provides a nuanced and sophisticated argument, skirting the difficulties of using diaries with apparent ease. While the passages about the squalid streets of Cairo or seeing French countryside from the train for the first time are things that I suspect many researchers skip through impatiently looking for the “good stuff”, Heffernan has taken them and shown a way into the mind-set of the homesick Australian soldier in a way not seen before.

There is also an awareness of the strengths and limitations of the diaries as sources. Despite this, the analysis is sophisticated and mature. A key strength in terms of the analysis of the diaries is the careful restraint shown throughout the thesis – there is no over-reach in terms of analogies or conclusions. Indeed, the thesis conclusion is very strong in the way that it draws together the arguments, the evidence, the historiography, the limitations, future directions and possible re-evaluations.

This thesis is capable, well-researched and beautifully written. It certainly provides new insights into Army’s history in the First World War, tracing the soldiers’ reactions to unusual environments and the links it provided to home, either in the similarity of the environment, or its gross differences. It makes these historical figures a bit more familiar, and highlights some of the experiences of war that are universal to the overseas combatant – being “somewhere else”. Heffernan has adroitly captured the seemingly disparate yet surprisingly similar voices of these young Australian soldiers – the awe, the terror, the longing, the sadness – and skilfully situated their writings within the landscape of war. The author’s connection to the soldiers and their diaries shines through, thanks to the care taken in researching and writing this thesis. This is an outstanding Honours thesis.


Bryce Scott Abraham

Valore Australis: Constructions of Australian Military Heroism from Sudan to Vietnam, 1885-1975

Postgraduate, University of Newcastle

This PhD thesis explores the concept of heroism as perceived and awarded by Australian military authorities. ‘Valore Australis’ is a well-researched thesis, neatly blending empirical research with social and cultural theoretical frameworks where appropriate. As such, it engages with historical sub-disciplines that are, unfortunately, often absent from more operationally-focused military history. It also has the added benefit of being a joy to read.

The author commences this exploration by defining how heroism is commonly recognised in society and selects from there the key criteria required. He then juxtaposes society’s perceptions of heroism (function without fear) with those prevailing in military circles (cool-headedness to achieve combat effectiveness) and describes the difference in emphasis.

Having defined the concept, the thesis takes a longitudinal approach through the long history of medallic rewards. The author draws his examples sublimely from a vast amount of archival records to highlight shifts in emphasis of military heroism, which moved from humanitarian acts (saving a mate’s life) to aggressive and tactical acts to achieve results, and finally, to acts in which military training, technology, professionalism and leadership resulted in the desired battle results.

The supreme award of the Victoria Cross leads the way in the analysis and this makes sense considering that the required recommendations, political and bureaucratic processes underscore Australia’s dependence on the Imperial Honours and Awards system during the period under discussion. The shifts in merit required for the lesser awards, such as DSO, DSM, DSC and Mention in Despatches, smoothly flow from there.

The thesis demonstrated an excellent knowledge of each action for which a Victoria Cross was awarded and, importantly, how each individual instance came together to form a larger picture of how attitudes to the medal changed over time (and, in some cases, between operational theatres). With a good command of his subject matter, the author ably navigates the extensive chronological span (and corresponding historiography) inherent in his topic. He also strikes a good balance between discussions of policy and examples of actions for which the Victoria Cross was, or was not awarded. This thesis is a timely work of scholarship, particularly as Army (and the ADF as a whole) grapples with the legacy of its recent commitments in Afghanistan.



Previous CEW Bean Prize Winners

CEW Bean Prize Award Citation (Honours Division), Mr Robert Wyse, ‘Suspicious Minds: Official Australian Attitudes Towards Korean War POWs’

CEW Bean Prize Award Citation (Postgraduate Division), Dr Gregory Blake, ‘The Australian Army’s Independent Companies and Commandos 1940-1945’


A full list of previous CEW Bean Prize Winners and their citations can be found on the Previous recipients page.

For more information on CEW Bean, visit the Australian War Memorial.

For any other questions regarding the CEW Bean Prize or other programs run by the Australian Army History Unit, please email ahu.enquiries@defence.gov.au