Australia in the post-war years: new book

19 August 2009

A new book by a University of Sydney historian exploring how Australia's place in the world evolved during the First World War and the years immediately afterwards will be launched tonight by Professor Kim Beazley, former Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the Keating Government.

At the start of World War I, Australia was a fledgling nation, still strongly tied to Britain and the Empire.

But even in those early days, Australia's leaders could see that we needed to be able to defend ourselves as well as support others in need. A 'Pacific fleet' to protect Australia, New Zealand and other British outposts in the region was of utmost importance to Australia, but less important to Britain facing a war in the Atlantic and at her doorstep.

During the war these conflicting priorities intensified as Australia struggled to decide whether to conscript soldiers to fight overseas as well as for home defence. Ideas of loyalty to the Mother Country, and the precedence of Britishness over national pride were tested.

Following the war, Australia's leaders lobbied to retain the annexed German outposts in the Pacific, and Prime Minister Hughes believed that the Allies deserved reparation for the costs of the war.

Neville Meaney has explored these issues in-depth in his two-volume work, A history of Australian defence and foreign policy. Volume 2, Australia and World Crisis 1914-1923 will be launched tonight.

A new print of Volume 1, The Search for Security in the Pacific has also been released to coincide with the release of Volume 2.

The story is told through methodical analysis of official papers and correspondence from the time. Billy Hughes, Andrew Fisher and Joseph Cook emerge as lead players on the world stage of international politics during a time of war. Hughes's combative relationships with US President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George during the peace negotiations highlighted the different ways the leaders saw the emerging world order.

About the Author: Professor Neville Meaney has had a long and distinguished career in the Department of History at the University of Sydney. Professor Meaney's research interests include international history, especially concerning the way in which ideology, culture and geopolitics have interacted to shape the changing character of Australia's relations with the world.

For further information, review copies or to arrange an interview, please contact: Agata Mrva-Montoya at or 02 9036 9958.

What: Launch of Australia and World Crisis, 1914-1923, by Neville Meaney

When: 5.30pm Wednesday 19 August

Where: Victoria Room, Level 5, Fisher Library, Camperdown campus

Cost: Free