Intellectual Clusters and Australian Nation-Building 1900-1940
Program Director: Dr Tod Moore
The project of building a nation in Australia was largely the work of liberal intellectuals imbued with the high idealism of late Victorian Oxford. A remarkable characteristic of these intellectuals is their habit of forming tightly interlinked networks via formal and informal organisations which can be regarded as embryonic think tanks. The study of the aims and policies of their organisations enables researchers to structure the study of the ideas of the individuals. It also offers the promise of being able to evaluate the contribution of social liberal concepts of state intervention and idealism to evolving public policy at this time.
Some Australian Organisations (not an exhaustive list).
- Round Table groups
- Boobooks dinner club
- Australian Institute of Political Science
- Morpeth: S. Johns College
- League of Nations Union branches
- Australian Institute of International Affairs
- Institute for Pacific Relations branches
- Constitutional Association
The intellectuals who were active in these overlapping groups comprise a very long list. Some of the more important ones include Frederic Eggleston; Robert Garran; Elton Mayo; Keith Hancock; GV Portus; Ernest Burgmann; FA Bland; JG Latham; Francis Anderson; Douglas Copland; Walter Murdoch and PD Phillips.
The project seeks to refine existing work on these political intellectuals by using the lens of institutional affiliation. It has been proposed that there were groups such as the 'WEA intellectuals' and 'Institute intellectuals' who collectively dominated these early think tanks but the careful profiling of these clusters remains to be achieved. Biographies can be really helpful when looking at such groups but still lack the common policy threads supplied by a study of the organisations themselves. Seeing how these bodies responded to situations and what policy changes they put forward at key points in history has much to tell us about the contribution of the liberal intellectuals.
The Program seeks to:
- Identify social liberal intellectuals;
- Evaluate their contribution to each organisation;
- Assess the policy positions of each organisation;
- Identify the most influential intellectuals;
- Evaluate the degree to which institutions overlapped;
- Identify regional differences (if any);
- Assess the policy legacy of the intellectuals as a group