The First World War

The Universities and the Professions in Australia 1914-1939


Kate Darian-Smith & James Waghorne (Eds)

Melbourne University Press Academic 2019

Paperback   277pp   RRP $49.99


Reviewer: Robert Dixon, July 2019


The First World War, the Universities and the Professions is a collection of essays by academic historians that traces the evolving role of universities and their graduates, both during the First World War and in the two decades after it. The 1920s and 30s saw an increasing government role in driving research, a marked expansion in the size of the public service (at both state and federal level) and the rise of modern professional associations and international networks.

This volume has five sections – an Introduction, which has two short chapters; The Medical Sciences, which has five chapters; Science and Technology, which has four chapters; Humanities, Social Sciences and Teaching, which has six chapters; and The Arts - Design, Music and Writing, which has four chapters. Each chapter highlights how World War I disrupted and shaped the careers of individuals as well as describing the development of Australian institutions and professional bodies.

This is yet another book made up of chapters written by academic historians primarily for other academic historians, and as a result I think very few would wish to read the book ‘from cover to cover’. Having said that, almost all of the chapters deal with the early history of a number of the professional associations in Australia (psychiatry, dentistry, physiotherapy, nursing, engineering, veterinary science, architecture, music and broadcasting - amongst others). RUSI members with an interest in the early history of their own professional association will likely find the relevant chapter of interest.

The book includes eighteen ‘figures’. Many of these are graphs of the numbers involved in various professions at different points in time, but there are also some B&W photographs illustrating various professionals at work. (One is quite fascinating: a photograph of two musicians surrounded by various instruments. The caption reads: “Roy Brinsden and Grace Funston performing in Pat Hanna’s ‘Diggers’, 1926. The instruments show the versatility of these musicians, who could play xylophone, clarinet, trumpet, saxophone and either banjo or ukulele”.)

The book also has seven tables recording such things as university enrolments and the numbers in various professions at different dates. Brief biographies of the many contributors and a very useful seventeen-page index appear at the end of the book.  Each chapter has its own endnotes which include details of works referred to in that chapter.


  • YouTube Square

RUSI Victoria / (03)9282 5918/ © 2019 RUSI Victoria