The price of nostalgia: Menzies, the "Liberal" tradition and Australian foreign policy

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This article surveys some of the key contributions to the secondary literature on Australia's foreign and defence policy during Robert Gordon Menzies' two prime ministerships (1939-41, 1949-66), and seeks to identify Menzies' place in a "Liberal" and Liberal Party tradition through a reading of this work. Via a study of Menzies' imperialism, British race patriotism, nationalism, and attitudes towards Asia and the United States of America, it argues that the prime minister stands in an ambiguous relationship to the transformation that occurred in Australia's international orientation between the 1930s and 1960s. In the 1950s the Australian government's cold war foreign policy, and the political language that Menzies used in private and public to articulate it, were largely successful in balancing the competing claims of Britishness, Australianness and the newly-formed "American Alliance". By the early 1960s, however, his nostalgia for a dissolving imperial order was sufficiently pronounced that it contributed powerfully to a symbolic and rhetorical defeat for his side of politics, allowing Labor to claim the mantle of Australian foreign policy modernity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-417
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Journal of Politics and History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005
Externally publishedYes


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