New book from MUP: The First World War, the Universities and the Professions in Australia


The First World War, the Universities and the Professions in Australia

By Kate Darian-Smith and James Waghorne (editors)
Published by Melbourne University Press
RRP $49.99 in paperback • ISBN 9780522872903

The precursor to this book was a symposium convened in October 2017 under the auspices of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne.

Australia’s extraordinary contribution to World War I extended well beyond its military forces to the expertise of its universities and professional men and women. Scientists and engineers oversaw the manufacture of munitions and the development of chemical weapons. Doctors sustained soldiers in the trenches and treated the physically and psychologically damaged. Public servants, lawyers and translators were employed in the war bureaucracy, while artists and writers found new modes to convey the trauma of war. The graduates and staff of Australia’s six universities—Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia —were involved in this expansion of expertise.

But what did these men and women do after the guns were silenced? How were the professions and universities transformed by the immediate and longer-term impacts of the war?

This book examines how the technical and conceptual advances that occurred during World War I transformed Australian society. It traces the evolving role of universities and their graduates in the 1920s and 1930s, the increasing government validation of research, the expansion of the public service, and the rise of modern professional associations and international networks. While the war contributed to greater specialisations in traditional professions such as teaching or medicine, it also stimulated new jobs and training.

Chapter 14 Useful Knowledge offers up some interesting statistics: there were 410,000 military enlistments, 330,000 on active service, of whom 60,000 were killed, out of a population of five million. By 1934 the aggregate cost of the war had risen to 830 million pounds, much of it accumulated debt that imposed a severe burden on public finances throughout the interwar period.

This volume provides a new account of the interwar years that places knowledge and expertise at the heart of the Australian story.

Its four sections—The Medical Sciences; Science and Technology; Humanities, Social Sciences and Teaching; and The Arts: Design, Music and Writing—highlight how World War I disrupted and shaped the careers of individuals as well as the development of Australian society and institutions.

It’s no surprise that the impact of war on the medical profession was profound. Sadly, for many, war interrupted their university training to which they were never to return.

For readers interested in the impacts of war beyond the obvious, this book is both interesting and enlightening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s