Thesis Eleven Centre Seminar: Radical Retreat and the Appeal to Honour: Centennial Thoughts on the Outbreak of the Great War

In Australia, the arrival of the First World War often seems to be treated like a bushfire or an ‘Act of God’. There is surprisingly little attention to how uncertain entry into the war was for Britain and its Dominions, and how finely balanced the forces for and against intervention were. This paper examines the role of appeals to honour in the decision for war in the English-speaking world. The argument is principally focused on the role of these appeals in convincing strategically located radical liberals to accept British intervention – something which many, both inside and outside the Liberal government, had vigorously opposed until just before war was declared. The paper also examines parallel appeals in the United States and Australia. It then offers some preliminary thoughts on why the language of honour was effective, and whether it still plays a role a century later, before concluding with some possible centennial lessons.


Foreign Secretary Grey (left) heading to the House of Commons


Presented by:

Robin Archer
Reader in Political Sociology and
Director of the Ralph Miliband program
London School of Economics


Monday 11 August 2014
11.00 – 1.00 pm
Martin Building 488
La Trobe University

Robin Archer is Reader in Political Sociology and Director of the Ralph Miliband program at the London School of Economics. He was previously the Fellow in Politics at Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford. His works include Economic Democracy (Oxford, 1995) and Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States? (Princeton, 2007). He is currently working on a new project about opposition to the First World War and conscription, especially in the English-speaking world, and co-organizing an Academy of Social Sciences sponsored event on the conscription conflict in Australia. Some initial thoughts on this project can be found in Frank Bongiorno et al, Labour and the Great War (2014). He has been a visiting fellow at Princeton, Columbia, the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Sydney University, and most recently, NYU and the ANU.

Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
La Trobe University

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