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Powell, Graeme with Stuart Macintyre: Land of opportunity (Post-War Reconstruction archives)

Powell, Graeme with Stuart Macintyre

Land of Opportunity: Australia’s Post-War Reconstruction, National Archives of Australia, Canberra, 2015

This is 336 pages (30 chapters) of guidance to the files of the National Archives of Australia on a crucial decade of Australia’s history when men (and some women), driven by knowledge that the years after the Great War were not a model for how to build a better world, tried to do it better this time around. Stuart Macintyre worked through these records to write his Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s. Now, Graeme Powell, former Manuscripts Librarian at the National Library of Australia, has (with Macintyre’s collaboration) methodically set out a manual for others wanting to work on these years.

land-of-opportunity-front-cover-250_tcm48-86257The chapters cover everything from ‘Discussion groups and the New Order’ to ‘Industrial relations and the coal industry’, ‘Full employment’ to ‘Town and regional planning’. They explain the contents of files not just from the Department of Post War Reconstruction but from all of the other departments and agencies involved in the reconstruction project and from Cabinet discussions. There are brief introductions to the whole book and to individual chapters, as well as an appendix on ‘dramatis personae’, a brief bibliography and a note about records in the National Library of Australia.

This is a resource that serious researchers in the field should not do without, either online or in a sturdily bound hard copy with ample space for annotations. It opens the way to researching an alternative, less khaki, more complex view of Australian history and Stuart Macintyre said as much at the Canberra launch on 9 December 2015.

The book was launched by Professor Joan Beaumont. It is available from the NAA or is online at the link above as Research Guide No. 26. The full set of NAA research guides is accessible here. Stuart Macintyre is one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters.