Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s
By Stuart Macintyre
Published by New South; www.newsouthbooks.com.au
RRP $ 34.99 in paperback
How could I, born the same year as the Holden, resist a book with the first Holden on the cover.
In this new book, Stuart Macintyre explains how a country traumatised by World War I, hammered by the Depression and overstretched by World War II became a prosperous, successful and growing society by the 1950s. An extraordinary group of individuals, notably John Curtin, Ben Chifley, Nugget Coombs, John Dedman and Robert Menzies, re-made the country, planning its reconstruction against a background of wartime sacrifice and austerity.
As Macintyre writes in his introduction, the story of Australian reconstruction is tangled up with the story of Australia at war.
Not surprisingly he says that improvements came to be taken for granted, their origin forgotten. I can’t help feeling that we see that today, with more and more expected of government.
Macintyre is well qualified for the task having co-edited the two volume Cambridge History of Australia and winning, with his co-writer Anna Clark, the 2004 NSW Premier’s Australian History Prize for The History Wars.
Writing in The Australian (6-7 June 2015) Professor Ross Fitzgerald said ‘this book makes a singular contribution to our nation’s political and economic history’ – high praise indeed from someone eminently qualified to say so.