Labour History

Resisting Whig History: Putting the Australian New Left in Perspective

Labour History (2018), 114, (1), 153–168.


The theoretical insights associated with the Australian New Left contribute to enriching our understanding of the intricacies of Australian history. Two of the most influential works associated with the movement, A New Britannia and Class Structure in Australian History, are compared to enable a consideration of both objective and subjective accounts of class. This paper has three parts. First, it identifies the historic context of history written in Australia within the Whig tradition of the Old Left. Second, it examines how debates within the British New Left came to influence discussions in the Australian New Left. Finally, it suggests that McQueen provided foundations to the theoretical approach to class undertaken inClass Structure in Australian History. It is argued that class remains an important and necessary abstraction in order to engage with the relationship between existing political economic structures and social subjects.

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Author details

Williams-Brooks, Llewellyn