Skip navigation
The Australian National University

School of History Seminar Week 5: ‘British to the core’: Australian Commodities and the Cultural Economy of the ‘White’ Empire, 1926–1939

Date and time

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 16:15 - 17:30


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

After World War One, Australia embarked on a series of marketing campaigns to sell more of their produce to the British. In metropolitan store windows, in newspapers, and on streamers fluttering from the sides of London buses, British consumers were urged to ‘Buy Australian: British and Best’. The sentiment may be a surprise to those who argue for Australian economic nationalism in the interwar period. But the scale is even more surprising: in April 1935 alone more than 15,000 sets of promotional material were sent to retailers, 60,000 retail posters were printed, and promotional films screened to more than three million people in 160 cinemas across Britain.

Most surprising of all, these campaigns have escaped historical attention. But Australia’s own empire marketing offers a new approach to what historians Gary Magee and Andrew Thompson have recently termed the ‘cultural economy’ of empire. Their work emphasizes the role of ‘co-ethnic British networks’ in shaping patterns of trade and migration. This paper interrogates the idea of co-ethnic networks, moving beyond their function to consider how ideas about race, especially whiteness, were mobilized to create them.    National Library of Australia nla.plc-vn5056565-v


Dr Felicity Barnes is a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Auckland. Her first book, New Zealand’s London: A Colony and its Metropolis, based on her award-winning doctoral thesis, examined the impact of London on New Zealand’s culture and identity. She is currently working on a wider project exploring the links between commodity culture, empire, and identity in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Updated: 20 July 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher