Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: New South Publishing

Many followers of Australian political history forget that Robert Menzies had many years in the political wilderness not knowing he would end up being Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister.

In 1941, after two tumultuous years and in the midst of war, an anguished Robert Menzies stepped down. Few would have predicted that by the end of 1949 Menzies would again be Prime Minister, heading a new conservative party and a political hero himself.

Menzies at War reveals that this period was in fact a personal triumph for Menzies as he remade not only himself, but renewed conservative politics in Australia.

About the author

Anne Henderson AM

Anne Henderson AM is Deputy Director of the Sydney Institute.

She edits the Sydney Papers Online and co-edits the Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2008 she published Enid Lyons: Leading Lady to a Nation, and in 2011 Joseph Lyons: The People's Prime Minister.

Judges’ comments

With few exceptions most writers have treated the first Menzies government (April 1939 to August 1941) as an unworthy prelude to the Curtin and Chifley Labor governments that followed.

Anne Henderson revisits this view in this clearly written and thoroughly researched study. Her emphasis is on World War II. She presents Menzies as a realist internationalist ('ahead of his time') in a period of national danger.

She debunks a number of myths, notably that Menzies spent his time in England attempting to take over from Winston Churchill as British Prime Minister. She also contextualizes Menzies' anti-communism when Hitler and Stalin were allies.

As Geoffrey Blainey put it: 'an eye-opening book'.

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