Peter Edwards

Peter Edwards

Peter Edwards is a historian specialising in Australia’s national security policies and policy-making. He is the Official Historian of Australia’s involvement in conflicts in Malaya, Borneo, and Vietnam, for which he wrote Crises and Commitments (1992) and A Nation at War (1997). He is also the author of Arthur Tange: Last of the Mandarins (2006), Permanent Friends? Historical Reflections on the Australian–American Alliance (2005), and Prime Ministers and Diplomats (1983); the co-editor of Facing North (vol. 2, 2003); the editor of Defence Policy-Making (2008) and  Australia Through American Eyes (1977); and a founding editor of the series of Documents on Australian Foreign Policy.

Peter Edwards reviews 'Forgotten Wars: The end of Britain's Asian empire' by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper

October 2007, no. 295 01 October 2007
Peter Edwards reviews 'Forgotten Wars: The end of Britain's Asian empire' by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper
Notwithstanding the old adage, you can tell a certain amount about a book by its cover, especially if it has two covers, each displaying a different subtitle. The British edition of Forgotten Wars, on sale in Australian bookshops, has the subtitle ‘The End of Britain’s Asian Empire’. The cover photograph shows Lord Louis Mountbatten, in spotless white naval uniform, inspecting a guard of hon ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'Return to Vietnam: An oral history of American and Australian veterans’ journeys' by Mia Martin Hobbs

April 2022, no. 441 23 March 2022
Peter Edwards reviews 'Return to Vietnam: An oral history of American and Australian veterans’ journeys' by Mia Martin Hobbs
Australia’s Vietnam War has passed through several phases in the last six decades. In the mid-1960s the commitment of combat forces by the Menzies and Holt governments was strongly supported. The war and the associated conscription scheme became the focus of enormous controversy in the late 1960s and early 1970s, contributing to Labor’s electoral success in 1972. Gough Whitlam did not pull out ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'Ministers, Mandarins and Diplomats: Australian foreign policy making 1941–1969' by Joan Beaumont, Christopher Waters, and David Lowe, with Garry Woodard

May 2003, no. 251 01 May 2003
Peter Edwards reviews 'Ministers, Mandarins and Diplomats: Australian foreign policy making 1941–1969' by Joan Beaumont, Christopher Waters, and David Lowe, with Garry Woodard
Important political issues sometimes cut across traditional party lines, making it harder for us to confront and debate them. The ‘children overboard’ affair, for example, raised important questions about the relationship between public servants and their ministers. Some of these questions were blurred in the subsequent debate, however, for a simple reason. Since the 1970s, governments from bo ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'Spinning the Secrets of State: Politics and intelligence in Australia' by Justin T. McPhee

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
Peter Edwards reviews 'Spinning the Secrets of State: Politics and intelligence in Australia' by Justin T. McPhee
It is not surprising that a book on the politicisation of intelligence in Australia should begin and end by referring to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. For many Australians, that episode will long remain the classic example of the misuse of intelligence for partisan political purposes, in sharp contrast to the ideal that intelligence analysts should speak truth to power, giving policymakers their u ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'The Partnership: The inside story of the US–Australian Alliance under Bush and Howard' by Greg Sheridan

October 2006, no. 285 01 October 2006
Peter Edwards reviews 'The Partnership: The inside story of the US–Australian Alliance under Bush and Howard' by Greg Sheridan
If journalism is the first draft of history, this book is a rough-hewn draft of some important historical chunks. Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of The Australian, may not match some of his colleagues there in gravitas, intellectual depth, or analytical precision, but he compensates with an abundance of enthusiasm and enviable access to those in high office. In the early and mid-1990s, when The ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'Stanley Melbourne Bruce: Australian internationalist' by David Lee

October 2010, no. 325 01 October 2010
Peter Edwards reviews 'Stanley Melbourne Bruce: Australian internationalist' by David Lee
One of the most disconcerting aspects of the 2010 election campaign was the intrusion of former prime ministers and aspirants to that post. Liberals had tired of Malcolm Fraser’s interventions long before he decided not to renew his membership of the party. Labor supporters did not welcome another round of bickering between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. The interventions of Mark Latham were hardly ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'The Nashos' War: Australia's National Servicemen and Vietnam' by Mark Dapin

March 2015, no. 369 01 March 2015
Peter Edwards reviews 'The Nashos' War: Australia's National Servicemen and Vietnam' by Mark Dapin
In late April, the commemorations of the centenary of the Gallipoli landing will inevitably overshadow another significant anniversary in Australia’s military, political, and social history. On 29 April 1965, fifty years to the week after the landing at Anzac Cove, the Menzies government announced the commitment of an Australian infantry battalion to the growing conflict in Vietnam. That announc ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'Vietnam: The Complete Story of the Australian War' by Peter Edwards

December 2012–January 2013, no. 347 28 November 2012
Peter Edwards reviews 'Vietnam: The Complete Story of the Australian War' by Peter Edwards
Writing a book on a large, multifaceted, and complex historical subject on which there is a vast amount of source material is a little like sculpting a substantial yet elegant statue from marble. In this case, the sculpting process is far from complete. A potentially valuable book remains submerged within this long and inadequately edited volume. A clue to the problem lies in the subtitle, which a ... (read more)

Peter Edwards reviews 'Australia and the "New World Order": From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement: 1988–1991' by David Horner

July–August 2011, no. 333 29 June 2011
Peter Edwards reviews 'Australia and the "New World Order": From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement: 1988–1991' by David Horner
When the United States recently announced its commitment to enforce a ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya, the State Department spokesman was asked whether the United States was now at war. He could only manage a floundering non-answer. The unfortunate spokesman’s difficulty with this apparently simple question is a reminder of the vast changes in the nature of military conflict in recent decades. Major ... (read more)