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Additional info for An historian's life : Max Crawford and the politics of academic freedom

Sample text

Despite his protestations, he possessed a strong vision for Australia. He confidently pondered such issues as communism, class, and attitudes towards the British in Germany and France. 13 At the same time he insisted that politics ‘bored him’. 14 Crawford also suggested in retrospect that the influences that shaped the careers of his political uncles might have operated ‘subliminally’ in his own parents’ house. 15 Convinced that Bexley was the setting of Christina Stead’s classic book, The Man Who Loved Children, Crawford considered the ‘real poverty’ in the Bexley-Rockdale district—the widows and deserted wives with children.

133 In response to academic expectations and international events, Crawford wrote two articles, one on the crisis in Abyssinia and the other on Spain. Both were pivotal to his development as an active liberal engaged in public debate. Vital questions remain about his sudden productivity and the reasons for his compulsion to write about contemporary issues. He might have felt that, with his new appointment, he enjoyed a greater authority to comment. 135 The crisis in Abyssinia had enduring ramifications far beyond Italy’s invasion and eventual victory.

Crawford was uneasy and less confident of his Australian identity, perhaps because it betrayed the working-class roots he appeared uncomfortable with, and perhaps also because he wished at all costs to avoid the charge of parochialism. Establishing friendships was difficult initially for the young and earnest Australian. It took several months before he felt accepted. Analysing the motives, he informed his mother: ‘I seem to be making friends on every side now. England is like that. 81 Liberal he may have been, but this in no way mitigated Crawford’s emerging prejudices.

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