“An Isolated Outpost of   Western Civilization”

Russell’s Appraisal of Mid-Century Australia


  • Andrew G. Bone McMaster University




On his Australian lecture tour of 1950 Russell talked more about the global dimensions of the Cold War than about the politics, culture and society of the country he was visiting for the first and only time. As a keen but non-specialist observer, however, he readily offered his impressions and opinions of Australia and its place in the world. Like the majority of his hosts, Russell regarded this British Commonwealth state and American ally as an integral if distant part of the “West” and assumed that its comparatively small and overwhelmingly white population could continue to exist largely apart from the region within which it was situated. In so doing, he emphasized Australia’s geopolitical vulnerabilities and demographic challenges, sometimes also displaying a Cold War mindset that remained decidedly anti-Soviet at the mid-century mark. Russell’s reflections on these matters, and the linkages he drew between them, spoke to (rather than questioned) deep-seated Australian anxieties and prejudices about national security, race and immigration.