Australia's Great Depression

How a nation shattered by the Great War survived the worst economic crisis it has ever faced

Joan Beaumont
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How a nation still in grief from the Great War found the courage and resilience to face a new tragedy, the Great Depression.

Some generations are born unlucky. Australians who survived the horrors of the Great War and the Spanish flu epidemic that followed were soon faced with the shock of the Great Depression. Today we remember long dole queues, shanty towns and destitute men roaming the country in search of work. With over a third of the workforce unemployed in 1932, Australia was one of the hardest hit countries in the world. Yet this is not the complete story.

In this wide-ranging account of the Great Depression in Australia, Joan Beaumont shows how high levels of debt and the collapse of wool and wheat prices left Australia particularly exposed in the world's worst depression. Threatened with national insolvency, and with little room for policy innovation, governments resorted to austerity and deflation. Violent protests erupted in the streets and paramilitary movements threatened the political order.

It might have ended very differently, but Australia's democratic institutions survived the ordeal. Australia's people, too, survived. While many endured great hardship, anger, anxiety and despair, most 'made do' and helped each other. Some even found something positive in the memory of this personal and communal struggle. Australia's Great Depression details this most impressive narrative of resilience in the nation's history.

'A magisterial account of an immense tragedy, told with authority, poignancy and drama.' - Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, The Australian National University

'A masterpiece by one of Australia's most esteemed historians' - David Day, historian

'Beaumont's brilliant study is the comprehensive history of the Great Depression that we have been waiting for.' - Stephen Garton AM, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, The University of Sydney

Author bio:

Joan Beaumont is Professor of History at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, and author of the magisterial and multi-award winning account of Australia's experience of World War I, Broken Nation.

Category: History
ISBN: 9781760293987
Table Of Contents: List of maps, tables and figuresIntroduction: Australia's Great Depression 


Part I Legacies of War
1 The soldiers come home 
2 Politics reshaped 
3 War and the economy 


Part II Recovery, Visions and Recession, 1919-29 
4 Recovery and development 
5 The voracious borrower 
6 Recession 
7 Over the cliff 


Part III Depression, 1929 
8 What caused the Great Depression? 
9 Scullin's poisoned chalice 
10 The unemployed 
11 The voluntary sector to the rescue 


Part IV Maelstrom, 1930 
12 The tightening band of policy options 
13 Losing control 


Part V Surviving
14 Sustenance 
15 Community and family 
16 Health and resilience 


Part VI Work of a Kind
17 Searching for work 
18 Relief works 
19 Protest and grievance 


Part VII The Nadir, 1931 
20 The battle of the plans 
21 Populism and secession 
22 Taking up arms 
23 In office but not in power 
24 The Premiers' Plan 
25 Scullin's end 


Part VIII On the Margins
26 Women at risk 
27 Losing your home 
28 Without a home 
29 On the track 
30 Aboriginal Australians 
31 The new immigrant 


Part IX Climax, 1932 
32 Lyons' first six months 
33 Debt, imperial preference and cricket 


Part X Recovery, 1933-37 
34 Economic recovery 
35 An emergency government without an emergency 

Epilogue: A resilient nation 
Appendix: Federal and state elections, 1927-37 
Acknowledgements 
Abbreviations 
Glossary of terms 
Notes 
References 
Index 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: March 2022
Page Extent: 576
Format: Book
Age: 0 - 0
Subject: Economic history