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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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Allen & Unwin
01 April 2022
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
 Australia's Great Depression: How a nation shattered by the Great War survived the worst economic crisis it has ever faced

Imprint:   Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
Weight:   1.013kg
ISBN:   9781760293987
ISBN 10:   1760293989
Pages:   576
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Introduction 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 Notes References Index

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.

Reviews for Australia's Great Depression: How a nation shattered by the Great War survived the worst economic crisis it has ever faced

'Vividly illustrates the clashes and complexities of the crisis' - Geoffrey Blainey, The Australian 'The most authoritative historical work on Australia and the Great Depression' - Joy Damousi, Sydney Morning Herald

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