While the Great War raged, Australians were twice asked to vote on the question of military conscription for overseas service. The recourse to popular referendum on such an issue at such a time was without precedent anywhere in the world. The campaigns precipitated mass mobilisation, bitter argument, a split in the Labor Party, and the fall of a government. The defeat of the proposals was hailed by some as a victory of democracy over militarism, mourned by others as an expression of political disloyalty or a symptom of failed self-government.
But while the memory of the conscription campaigns once loomed large, it has increasingly been overshadowed by a preoccupation with the sacrifice and heroism of Australian soldiers – a preoccupation that has been reinforced during the centennial commemorations.
This volume redresses the balance. Across nine chapters, distinguished scholars consider the origins, unfolding, and consequences of the conscription campaigns, comparing local events with experiences in Britain, the United States, and other countries. A corrective to the ‘militarisation’ of Australian history, it is also a major new exploration of a unique and defining episode in Australia’s past.
About the Authors
Robin Archer is Director of the postgraduate program in Political Sociology at the London School of Economics and Emeritus Fellow in Politics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He is the author of Economic Democracy (Oxford, 1995) and Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States? (Princeton, 2008).
Joy Damousi is Professor of History at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of The Labour of Loss: Mourning, Memory and Wartime Bereavement in Australia (Cambridge, 1999), Freud in the Antipodes (UNSW, 2005) and Colonial Voices: A Cultural History of English in Australia 1840-1940 (Cambridge, 2010).
Murray Goot is Professor of Politics at Macquarie University and a former President of the Australasian Political Studies Association. He is the author of Australian Opinion Polls (Hale and Iremonger, 1993), Divided Nation? (Melbourne, 2007),and numerous scholarly articles on elections, referendums and public opinion.
Sean Scalmer is Associate Professor of History at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Dissent Events: Protest, the Media, and the Political Gimmick in Australia (UNSW, 2002) and Gandhi in the West: The Mahatma and the Rise of Radical Protest (Cambridge, 2011).