Imagining the Fifties: Private Sentiment and Political Culture in Menzies' Australia

By John Murphy | Go to book overview

1
The pursuit of private happiness

The central focus of this book is the sentiments and aspirations of the middle class among the generation that produced the post-war baby boom. It is as well to remember how they had been shaped by their formative experiences. They had grown up through what the historian Eric Hobsbawm has called the 'Age of Catastrophe', the first half of the century from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the second in 1945. Their experiences, as children and as young adults, had been lived against a background of the profound economic crisis of the Depression and the rise of fascism, of mass warfare and mass mobilisation, of the epochal catastrophes which made the first half of this century.1 A man or woman aged thirty in 1949, at the beginning of Menzies' long reign, had been born shortly after the First World War; he or she was ten at the start of the Depression; when they reached the age of twenty, the Second World War was beginning and would inevitably draw them into its grasp.

As they approached the cusp of the second half of the century, it was understandable that they looked back to this Age of Catastrophe as much as they looked forward to hopes of prosperity and peace; and it was natural that one should influence the other. On New Year's Eve in 1949 the magazine that was so firmly positioned in the heartland of the middle class-- Frank Packer's Australian Women's Weekly--expressed this ambivalence: 'This year brings in the fifties--the second half of the too noisy, too speedy, troublesome twentieth century. What will they be known as, these fifties? The lucky fifties would be nice to live in.' In the post-war years, in popular magazines and novels, themes of risk, death and loss contended with hopes for the future, and indicated how the experiences of war were being

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Imagining the Fifties: Private Sentiment and Political Culture in Menzies' Australia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Part III - Discontents *
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations viii
  • List of Figures and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Interiors 11
  • 1 - The Pursuit Of Private Happiness 13
  • 2 - Manhood 31
  • 3 - Womanhood 42
  • 4 - Intimacy 55
  • 5 - The Australian Way of Life 66
  • Part II - P0litics 79
  • 6 - The Rewards Of the Good Citizen 81
  • 7 - 'A War-Haunted World' 91
  • 8 - An Unreliable Boom 105
  • 9 - The Petrov Election 121
  • 10 - The Meanings of Home 136
  • Part III - Discontents 147
  • 11 - Immigration and Assimilation 149
  • 12 - 'Dog Licences' And Indigenous Citizens 168
  • 13 - 'Pledging the Future' 185
  • 14 - The Housewife and the Man In the Grey Flannel Suit 199
  • Conclusion 217
  • Notes 223
  • Index 256
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