Australia’s Great Depression: How a Nation Shattered by the Great War Survived the Worst Economic Crisis it has Ever Faced, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2022; electronic version available
How a nation still in grief from the Great War found the courage and resilience to face a new tragedy, the Great Depression … 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. (blurb)
The book is reviewed for Honest History by Claire EF Wright. Other reviews: Joy Damousi; Roy Hay; Benjamin Huf (paywall); Marilyn Lake; Janet McCalman; Michael McKernan, Richard Tutin. For other recent books that look at the pandemic and its predecessors and what we can learn: Emma Dawson and Janet McCalman (ed.) What Happens Next? (scroll down); Carolyn Holbrook, Lyndon Megarrity and David Lowe (ed.), Lessons from History.