School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Max Crawford: necessity and freedom
    ANDERSON, FAY ( 2002)
    This thesis is a study of Max Crawford as an intellectual and historian from the years 1927 to 1962. Its argument is that Crawford's consistent stance of liberalism in political and academic life propelled him towards a position which, in the climate of the years preceding the Second World War and the Cold War, seemed radical, but in the wake of public criticism he later withdrew from direct engagement in public intellectual life. There are three prevailing themes. The first addresses the political denial that dominated Crawford's retrospective autobiographical writing. Crawford insisted that his family was not political, and that he followed the family tradition in keeping his conscience free of political commitments. The thesis will argue that this was not evident in his family background, nor in his own activity. The ideology that he espoused in the History School, and afterwards was at pains to deny, was politically active and advocated the liberal values of freedom and morality. The thesis will explore how he was drawn to progressive causes and lent his academic authority to them, only to retreat when he encountered fierce criticism. It is my contention that Crawford finally adopted a stance of independence from all engagement because of the enduring legacy of the Cold War and the controversy surrounding his decision to write to the Bulletin ostensibly to expose an alleged Communist plot. The second theme of the thesis is the place of academic freedom in Australian universities. The thesis will argue that it was often tenuous and never completely accepted by administrators, politicians or the press, which expected universities to avoid controversy. The public and political expectations of an Australian intellectual created self-censorship and wavering commitment. These themes will be analysed in the context of Crawford’s experiences and his transformation from a highly conspicuous, progressive and engaged liberal to a more traditional and reticent one. The thesis will explore how his life and historical approach were subject to the pressures of public life. Finally, the thesis will investigate the intellectual style of Max Crawford. His approach to the theory and method of history exercised a strong influence on the discipline, as it assumed a central position in Australia's intellectual culture. The History School that Crawford created was celebrated for its scholarship and its students achieved important positions in other universities and public life. The thesis will examine the life of the Department, its influence, the approach to history and its legacy, which has been retrospectively celebrated and dismissed.