Australia and World Crisis, 1914-1923

A History of Australian Defence and Foreign Policy 1901-23: Volume 2

Neville Meaney

Regular price $100.00 Sale

Format: hardback
Other formats: Paperback $80.00
550 pages
ISBN: 9781920899448

Publication: 31 Jul 2009

Publisher: Sydney University Press

Australia and World Crisis, 1914–1923 is the second volume in a pioneering two-volume history of Australian defence and foreign policy. It is based on wide-ranging research in collections of personal and official papers in Australia, Britain, the United States and Canada. Linking up with the first volume, The Search for Security in the Pacific, it offers a new and path-breaking understanding of Australia's relations with the world from the outbreak of the First World War to the making of peace in Europe and the Pacific.

This study explores a number of fundamental issues that shaped Australia's response to the world in this era, such as race and culture, geopolitics and security, domestic divisions and ideas of loyalty, and the philosophies and personalities of the chief policy makers. From the outset of this global conflict Australia was involved in a 'hot war' in Europe against Germany and its allies, and in a 'cold war' in the Pacific against Japan. The British Australians, for reasons of sentiment and interest, supported the Mother Country, but even as they did so they were deeply concerned about Japan's ambitions. As a result Japan figured prominently in Australia's approach to the war and the peace. Indeed for the Australians the 'cold war' did not come to an end until the Washington Conference of 1921–2, when Japan with the other Pacific powers agreed to limit naval building and to respect existing territories in China and the Pacific.

In tracing out this story, the book throws light on many particular aspects of the 'hot' and 'cold' wars. They include the origins of Asian studies in Australia, intelligence gathering, the secret service and loyalty leagues, the fear of Japan in the conscription controversy, Irish Catholics and the Anglo-Irish War. The labour movement and the Bolshevik revolution, the ideological clash of the American President and the Australian Prime Minister over peacemaking, the visit of the Prince of Wales, 'Britishness' and the failure of the idea of Greater Britain all influenced the development of Australia's defence and foreign policy. At the end of the book there is an attempt to provide an assessment of Australia's leadership through these testing times and to point out the significance of this experience for a later generation of Australia policy makers.

Neville Meaney is an honorary associate professor of history at the University of Sydney.


The onset of war and the Pacific problem
1. Australian leaders and the outbreak of war
2. The imperial cause and aid for the Mother Country
3. The competition for Germany’s Pacific empire
4. ‘No parallel in our history’: the menace of Japan

‘Our last man and our last shilling’? Loyalty and conscription
5. ‘The survival of the fittest’: the crusade for the British race
6. The war and the home front: Japan and the defence of Australia
7. ‘The greatest crisis in our history’: the conflict over conscription
8. ‘Loyalty’ and the empire: the nation divided
9. ‘The enemy within the gate’: the attack on national community

‘Annexation and indemnity’: Australia's war aims
10. The attack on peacemongers and the appeasement of Japan
11. Manoeuvring for the spoils of war: American consultations and imperial councils
12. ‘The very threshold of the promised land’: joining battle over the armistice terms

‘Not a good peace’: the making of the Treaty of Versailles
13. Preparing for the Paris Peace Conference
14. ‘Absolutely unbearable’: the defeat of Hughes’ vision for the post-War world

The lessons of war, the decline of the empire and ‘détente’ in the Pacific
15. A Pacific ‘foreign office’, the Japanese threat and defence planning
16. The crisis of empire and a Pacific settlement


'The persistence of these fundamental choices is superbly demonstrated in a major new book on the history of Australia's strategic policy during and after the First World War. Australia and World Crisis 1914–1923 by the doyen of Australian strategic history, Neville Meaney, takes a long, hard look at why Australia chose to send so many young men to fight in the Near East and Europe'
Hugh White   Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

'Rich in quotes and representing a true mastery of the primary and secondary literature, it is an outstanding combination of political, social, and military history that deserves to be read far more widely ... '
Augustine Meaher   Canadian Journal of History

‘No-one writing on the history of Australian foreign policy will be able to ignore Neville Meaney’s new contribution. Indeed Meaney’s two volumes will remain for a long time required reading for all specialists in this field.'
Christopher Waters   Australian Journal of Politics and History

‘In a bold re-interpretation of one of Australia’s pivotal periods, historian Neville Meaney explodes the myth that the Great War broke upon an innocent nation of colonial deference devoid of any independent strategic consciousness … [The book] should transform conventional historical accounts of Australia and the Great War and assessments about the relationship between Australian leaders and Empire central in London.’
Paul Kelly   The Australian

‘Meaney's two volumes ... offer great historical depth to the never-ending debate on Australian strategic policies, between what might be called the global-imperial and the national-regional imperatives ... The comparisons and contrasts between the strategic concerns of a century ago and today deserve careful consideration. Meaney's two volumes are an essential base for such consideration, and for an understanding of the basic structures of Australian strategic policies.’
Peter Edwards   Australian Journal of International Affairs

Format: hardback
Size: 260 × 187 × 37 mm
550 pages
Copyright: © 2009
ISBN: 9781920899448
Publication: 31 Jul 2009