This book deals with the ideas of eight international thinkers, here characterized as the principal members of the “Australian school” of international relations (IR). All were concerned, in the period c. 1920–60, with the puzzle of Australia’s place in the world. They advised and wrote on, and fostered public interest in, the rationales for and the merits of foreign and defence policies; they debated the options available for governments to chart the most prudent future national course. They subjected to searching analysis Australia’s changing place in the evolving Empire-Commonwealth, the new demands of membership of the League of Nations, the emerging opportunities and security anxieties inherent in Australia’s geographical location in the Asian and Pacific region, and the most efficacious means to retain Australia’s British character while recognizing the rising claims of internationalism. They also held views, sometimes quite explicit views, on the best strategy (or methodology) by which to address these questions. In this period, the discipline of “international relations” was in its formative years; consequently, these individuals—historians, legal academics, advisers, diplomats—were generally understood to be contributing to commentary on “international affairs” or “world affairs” or sometimes “international studies,” which were all terms then regarded as synonymous with “international relations.” In retrospect, these figures stand at the beginnings of the organized and systematic scholarly pursuit of IR in Australia. This book is consequently a study of their ideas as well as an account of the early development of the discipline. Its starting point is therefore a brief consideration of the role they are accorded in that story.


Foreign Policy International Relation International Affair Australian School Defence Policy 
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© James Cotton 2013

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  • James Cotton

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