These proceedings carry some of the papers delivered at the 14th Biennial Labour History Conference, 11-13 February 2015. Titled Fighting Against War: Peace Activism in the Twentieth Century, the conference was held at the University of Melbourne. A conference book of refereed papers has been published under that title and these proceedings carry the non-refereed papers received for publication. There is one exception to that rule: the paper written by Warwick Eather and Drew Cottle, published below, which underwent double blind refereeing. It is an important paper, which demonstrates with compelling evidence that the rabbit was anything but a curse to the many men, women, and children who took advantage of the rabbit industry’s resilience during the economic storms for much of the twentieth century. It exemplifies how meticulous research in labour history can provide an entirely new understanding of an otherwise much-maligned animal in Australia.
The next three papers all concern opposition to nuclear testing, from the 1950s to the 1980s. When read together, they provide a convincing argument for the importance and efficacy of the diverse anti-nuclear movements in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Whilst there are inevitable overlaps, these papers emphasise different and often neglected dimensions: the struggle for recognition of and compensation for the devastating effects of nuclear testing; the internal dynamics of the various nuclear disarmament organisations; and an evaluation of their impact on government policy, culminating in the Rarotonga Treaty of 1985.
The last three papers cover aspects of World War I, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. The first focuses on the role of one redoubtable woman, Ettie Rout, in challenging popular misconceptions about venereal disease held by military authorities and the soldiers themselves. The next paper examines the life of a Czech Lutheran pastor, Professor Josef Hromádka, who visited Australia twice during the 1950s. Hromádka attempted to juggle Christianity with Socialism, which – in the prevailing climate of strident anti-communism – provoked hostile receptions and Cold War invective. The final paper in this collection brings to life, through the reflections of a “participant observer”, the preparations, conduct and impact of Adelaide’s largest anti-war demonstration: the protest against the invasion of Iraq in 2003 organised by the NoWar collective. Its efforts, undertaken by a broad range of rank and file activists, is a fitting reminder, and exemplar, of the theme of our conference: peace activism in the twentieth century.
Warwick Eather and Drew Cottle
Proceedings of the 14th Biennial Labour History Conference, eds, Phillip Deery and Julie Kimber (Melbourne: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 2015), i-92. ISBN: 978-0-9803883-3-6.