Paul Strangio reviews 'John Curtin: How he won over the media' by Caryn Coatney

Paul Strangio reviews 'John Curtin: How he won over the media' by Caryn Coatney

John Curtin: How he won over the media

by Caryn Coatney

Australian Scholarly Publishing, $39.95 pb, 228 pp, 9871925333411

John Curtin occupies the top tier in the pantheon of Australian national leaders. ‘Expert’ rankings of former officer holders – a practice lately imported from the United States, where presidential rating exercises have been fashionable for decades – have placed Curtin narrowly ahead of other prime-ministerial virtuosos: Alfred Deakin, Ben Chifley, Robert Menzies, and Bob Hawke.

Curtin’s allure is not hard to fathom. Socialist, committed anti-militarist during the Great War, his political career blighted by bitter setbacks, he conquered adversity and went against type to steer Australia through World War II. In doing so, he subdued his own demons: alcoholism and a melancholic disposition. His leadership also has the stuff of heroism exemplified by his doughty insistence, against the wishes of Winston Churchill, on the return of the 6th and 7th AIF divisions to Australia for homeland defence and his sleepless vigil as the convoys transporting the troops made their perilous voyage across the Indian Ocean. And there is the tragic arc of his prime-ministerial story – careworn by the burdens of wartime office, he died in July 1945, months short of victory.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in November 2016, no. 386
Paul Strangio

Paul Strangio

Paul Strangio is an associate professor of politics at Monash University. He is the author and editor of many books on Australian political history. His most recent publications are The Pivot of Power: Australian prime ministers and political leadership, 1949–2016 (Melbourne University Press, 2017) and Settling the Office: The Australian Prime Ministership from Federation to reconstruction (Miegunyah Press, 2016), both written with Paul ‘t Hart and James Walter.

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 We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.