Category Archives: War and militarism

The Brisbane Line: An episode in capital history

by Drew Cottle

The Brisbane Line was a hotly contested idea during World War 2 which envisioned that the northern half of Australia might be abandoned in the event of an invasion by the Japanese.

Historian Drew Cottle takes a fresh look behind the controversy in this interesting article, originally published in the Journal of Australian Studies, January 2001.

It is reposted here with the kind permission of the author.

Cottle, Drew – The Brisbane line _ An episode in capital history

Why did Australia go to the great war?

We gratefully acknowledge permission from the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society at UNSW to publish this excellent collection of seminar papers on Australia’s involvement in World War 1.

Click here to access the papers.


ACSACS Occasional Paper Series No. 8

Why did Australia go to the great war?

Proceedings of a Symposium held at the University of New South Wales, Canberra 8 May 2018

Edited by Peter Stanley


Peter Stanley: Introduction

Greg Lockhart: Effacing the nation: the imperial romance and its persistence in Australian Great War history

John Mordike: Outlining national-imperial tensions in the development of the Australian Military Forces, 1901-14

Douglas Newton: Choosing war, and choosing war aims: British and Australian decision-making, 1914-1918

Gerhard Fischer: The Little Welshman’s dream: the war aims of William Morris Hughes

John Moses: Between truth and polemic: comprehending imperial Germany’s war-aims 1914-18

Robert Stevenson: ‘Why Australia Went to the Great War’ – Commentary

Published by the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society, March 2019

Fresh Boer War atrocity




The Boer War memorial along Canberra’s Anzac Parade includes statues of four horsemen to represent an Australian patrol on the Veldt. What truth demands is a Boer War memorial with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to recall the 25,000 Boer women and children and at least 15,000 black Africans who died in British concentration camps. Continue reading

Conscription for war and profit

Conscription for war and profit: classes, nation-market-states and empires

Humphrey McQueen

Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Branch,
Seminar, Saturday, 29 October 2016: ‘The defeat of conscription: a centennial retrospective’.


‘Here and today, a new epoch in the history of the world has begun.’ So said Johann Wolfgang Goethe to the Prussian commanders on the night after their defeat at Valmy on 20 September 1792. French volunteers had charged the invaders’ guns shouting ‘Vive la Nation!’ and singing ‘Ca ira’ – ‘It goes well, It goes well, It goes well.’ ‘A new epoch’ indeed, for, on the following day, the Convention abolished the monarchy.[1] Within two years, the lyrics of ‘Ca ira’ had been rewritten to include ‘Les aristocrates a la lanterne!’[2]

Continue reading

Conscription – the sequel

Conscription: The Sequel*

Bill Thompson

Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Region Branch

This paper will briefly examine the aftermath of the failed attempts to introduce conscription for overseas service into the Australian military forces during World War I. It will discuss the inter-war years; the constraints imposed by anti-conscription sentiments on recruitment for World War II, and the subsequent, successful, but again controversial, introduction of two conscription schemes for military service in the 1950s and 1960s. The situation at the present time will then be reviewed. Continue reading

Taught to forget


 Humphrey McQueen

 If any question why we died,
Tell them because our fathers lied.
Rudyard Kipling (1919).

Did Melbourne’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Daniel Mannix allege, early in 1917, that the Great War was ‘simply a sordid trade war’, or did he but repeat as ‘a truism that the war was a trade war’? Continue reading