Neville Kirk: Labour and the Politics of Empire

Putting nation and empire in labour politics

Robert Dare

 

Labour and the Politics of Empire: Britain and Australia 1900 to the Present
by Neville Kirk
Manchester University Press (Footprint Books), $144 hb, 319 pp, 9780719080791

 

In 1902 the New Zealander William Pember Reeves published a pioneering study of social innovations in Australia and New Zealand. He wrote it, he said, for the ‘increasing number of students in England, on the Continent, and in America who are sincerely interested in them’. Neville Kirk wants us to remember that British interest in innovation down under continued well beyond Federation. Almost a century later, he reminds us, Tony Blair shaped New Labour around what he learned from the great antipodean modernisers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. ‘What people in Britain don’t understand about Tony Blair,’ he quotes from the Australian cleric and social entrepreneur Peter Thomson, ‘is that basically he’s an Australian.’ Kirk, an historian at Manchester Metropolitan University, has written extensively in what he calls transnational and cross-national comparative labour history, so that he is on familiar ground. Three of the four photographs in his new book, published in a series called Studies in Imperialism, depict British Labour leaders in Australia, the last taken in 1926 (of the avuncular Arthur Henderson and seven of his parliamentary colleagues). All were here, Kirk would like us to think, because Australia continued to be a beacon for working-class politicians and radical social reformers.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in November 2011 no. 336
Robert Dare

Robert Dare

Robert Dare was educated at the University of Melbourne and at Oxford, where he was one of A.J.P. Taylor’s last doctoral students, preparing a thesis on the British Labour Party. He taught British, European, American, and Australian History at the University of Adelaide, and was the inaugural head of its School of History and Politics before his retirement.

By this contributor

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.