Thought I'd document what I ended up doing.
I added the following to the end of my ~/.bashrc
# my settings
shopt -s histappend
shopt -s histverify
I got a litle carried away and added a couple of extra tweaks to suit my preferences. histverify lets you edit commands recalled from history expansion before executing them. set -b makes background process notification happen in real time rather than waiting for the next shell prompt.