Time Travel: Australian Tourists and Britain's Past

Richard White


Across the twentieth century, Britain drew more Australian tourists for longer and more intense experiences than anywhere else, though as early as the 1970s Asia was attracting more Australians than Europe. They found much to admire and to deprecate in Britain but above all they were seduced by Britain’s past, or what they imagined it to be. This paper examines the Australian experience of history in Britain, their admiration for notions of tradition, for an unchanging village life, for fading imperial glory, for sheer antiquity. Some looked for their own ancestors and family but most were satisfied to have their school lessons and imaginative reading validated by being there. The response they had to British history was an intensely emotional one: this article argues that it was a result not of imperial sentiment but of a desire for a deep and meaningful past.


Australians; Tourism; Britain; History; Past; Emotion

Full Text:



Abbott, J. H. M. 1905, An Outlander in England: Being Some Impressions of An Australian Abroad. Methuen & Co., London.

Alomes, S. 1999, When London Calls: The Expatriation of Australian Creative Artists to Britain. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Atkinson, A. 2003, 'Heritage, Self, and Place, ' Australian Cultural History, vol. 22: 16171.

Barr, M. 2009, 'Sex, Art and Sophistication: The Meanings of Continental" Cinema, ' Journal ofAustralian Studies, vol. 33, no. 1, March: 118."

Bartholomew, M. 2004, In Search of H. V. Morton. Methuen, London.

Bedford, R. 1914, Explorations in Civilization. Syd. Day, Sydney.

Bedford, R. 1976 [1944], Naught to Thirty-Three, 2nd edition. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Blakie, F. J. 1903, Diary. Mitchell Library (ML) MSS 4376.

Blomfield, I. S. 1909, Memoirs, Blomfield papers, 1812, 1865ca. 1940s. ML MSS 6958.

Boucaut, Sir J. P. 1906, Letters to My Boys: An Australian Judge and Ex-Premier on His Travels in Europe. Gay & Bird, London.

Boxall, J. R. 19521953, Letters to Mrs J.P. Lane, Boxall Family Papers, 19521988. ML MSS 6343/1/2.

Brett, J. 1992, Robert Menzies' Forgotten People. Macmillan, Sydney.

Britain, I. 1997, Once an Australian: Journeys with Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Brown, A. D. 191617, Diary, 7 January 19163 November 1917. ML MSS 17.

Brown, L. 1910, Letters from an Australian Abroad. The Cumberland Argus Printing Works, Parramatta.

Buzard, J. 1993, The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature and the Ways to Culture, 18001918.

Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Campbell, S. 19321933, Diary of his Voyage to England and His Time There (2 volumes), with Two Loose Tables of Expenses, Diaries and Related Papers, 19281949. ML MSS 7215; CY 4317.

Clune, F. 1949, Land of Hope and Glory. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Clune, F. 1950, All Roads Lead to Rome: A Pilgrimage to the Eternal City, and a Look Around War-torn Europe. Invincible Press, Sydney.

Cohen, A. J. 1938, Diary, Cohen Papers, 18991973. ML MSS 6032.

Corsellis, E. 1953, Letters to Her Father, Family and Friends, Corsellis Papers, 18871989. ML MSS 6555/2.

Corsellis, E. 1954, Letters to Her Grandmother Mainly from England and Europe, Corsellis Papers, 18871989. ML MSS 6555/2.

Corsellis, E. 19531954, Diaries, Corsellis Papers, 18871989. ML MSS 6555/1.

Corsellis, E. 1975, Diary (Transcript), Corsellis papers, 18871989. ML MSS 6555/1.

Curran, J. 2004, The Power of Speech: Australian Prime Ministers Defining the National Image. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Donnell, Sister A. 19151918, Circular Letters, 25 May 19151918 July 1918. ML MSS 1022/1; CY 2459.

Dowding, M. 1928, Diary, Dowding Papers, 19281956. ML MSS 4249/1; CY3444.

Dowding, M. 1956, Diary, Dowding Papers, 19281956. ML MSS 4249/2.

Edgar, S. 1986, 'Murdoch, Madoline (Nina) (18901976), ' Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Online, available: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/murdoch-madoline-nina-7694/text13469 [Accessed 1 December 2011].

Falkiner, U. C. 1938, Diary. ML MSS 423/4448.

Fitzgerald, F. S. 2009 [1934], Tender is the Night. Penguin, London.

Freud, S. 1936, 'A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis: An Open Letter to Romain Rolland on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ' The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Hogarth Press, London, vol. 22: 23948.

Garnsey, A. H. 1930, Diary, Garnsey Papers, 18851944. ML MSS 7101/1.

Girl Guides 1937, Diary, 19371938. ML MSS 2494.

Glading, S. 19461948, Letters to Gladys Roberts, Roberts Correspondence. ML MSS 5116 ADD-ON 2113.

Gore, S. 1958, Australians, Go Home! Robert Hale, London.

Hassam, A. 2000, Through Australian Eyes: Colonial Perceptions of Imperial Britain. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Hinder, Dr H. V. C. 19111912, Diary, Frank Hinder Further Papers, 18951992. ML MSS 5720 ADDON 2026/4.

Holland, P. & Huggan, G. 1998, Tourists with Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

Howorth, A. 1937, 'Cooee' England: A Travel Diary. George Batchelor, Melbourne.

James, F. 19271933, Correspondence with Her Family, 19161990, Florence James Papers, 18901993. ML MSS 5877/9.

James, Mr & Mrs A. H. C. 1930, Letters, Tremlett Family Papers, 18721973, Together with Papers of the James Family, ca. 19051942. ML K 04231.

Kaldor, L. 2010, 'Gum Tree, ' in Symbols of Australia, (eds) M. Harper & R. White. UNSW Press & National Library of Australia, Sydney & Canberra.

Kendall, L. 1951, Visit to Britain. Peterson Brokensha, Perth.

Lahey, E. M. 1941, We Decided to GoNotes of A Journey. W. R. Smith & Patterson, Brisbane.

Lawrence, R. L. L. 1930, Diary, in folder '19131956 Miscellaneous Souvenirs ' Lawrence Catley, Catley and Lawrence Families Papers, 18681979. ML MSS 5850/1.

Lloyd, M. 1901, Wanderings in the Old World and the New. Vardon and Pritchard, Adelaide.

Lowenthal, David 1985, The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Macaulay, R. 1953, The Pleasure of Ruins. Thames & Hudson, London.

Macaulay, T. B. 1840, Review of Leopold von Ranke's The Ecclesiastical and Political History of the Popes During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Edinburgh Review, no. 72, October: 22758.

Maddern, I. T. 1960, Dear Everybody. Hedges & Bell Ltd, Victoria.

McDonald, W. R. 1944, By Bomber to Britain. Telegraph Newspaper Company, Brisbane, 1944.

McKenna, M. & Ward, S. 2007, 'It was Really Moving, Mate": The Gallipoli Pilgrimage and Sentimental Nationalism in Australia, ' Australian Historical Studies, vol. 38, no. 129: 14151."

Meaney, N. 2001, 'Britishness and Australian Identity: The Problem of Nationalism in Australian History and Historiography, ' Australian Historical Studies, vol. 32, no. 116: 7690.

Millear, M. M. 1902, The Journal of a Wandering Australian. Melville & Mullen, Melbourne.

Morton, H. V. 1927, In Search of England. Methuen, London.

Moss, J. 1922, My Diary of a Short Trip to England. Ruskin Press, Melbourne.

Murdoch, N. 1930, Seventh Heaven: A Joyous Discovery of Europe. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Napier, S. E. 1933, Walks Abroad: Two Australians in the Wilds of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 3rd edition. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Nietzsche, F. 1980 [1874], On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, (trans.) P. Preuss. Hackett, Indianapolis.

Nixon, J. 19271929, Letters, Nixon Family Papers, 18891942. ML MSS 7813

Nora, P. 1989, 'Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mmoire, ' Representations, no. 26: 725.

Ousby, I. 1990, The Englishman's England: Taste, Travel and the Rise of Tourism. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Pattinson, F. 2007, Send More Money Please Daddy: Letters from Abroad 195455. Holmesglen Institute of TAFE, Melbourne.

Pesman, R., Walker, D. & White, R. (eds) 1996a, The Oxford Book of Australian Travel Writing. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Pesman, R., Walker, D. & White, R. (eds) 1996b, An Annotated Bibliography of Australian Overseas Travel Writing, compiled by T. McCormack. ALIA Bibliographies on Disk, Canberra.

Reid, E. 1900, Diary. ML MSS 6565.

Richardson, Mrs M. 1904 Manuscript Diaries Covering Her Years of Study Abroad 1899, 19041906. ML B1687; CY973.

Roberts, A. 2008, 'Lessons in Social Progress: What Australian Tourists Learnt in Britain, ' British Australian Studies Association Biennial Conference, University of London, unpublished paper.

Roberts, H. G. 1937, Journal of a Trip from Sydney to Europe. ML MSS 2602.

Samuel, R. 1994, Theatres of Memory. Verso, London.

Sanders, W. 19281929, My Trip Abroad. ML MSS 7446.

Scates, B. 2006, Return to Gallipoli: Walking the Battlefields of the Great War. Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Simpson, C. 1959 [1965], Wake Up in Europe: A Book of Travel. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.

Sinclair, Hon J. R. 1913, The Homeland Revisited: The Hon. J. R. Sinclair's Impressions. Daily Times Print, Dunedin.

Sisson, J. 1953, A Tour by Car through England, Scotland and Wales. Bank of NSW, Sydney.

Skilton, D. 2004, 'Contemplating the Ruins of London: Macaulay's New Zealander and Others, ' London Journal, March. Online, available: http://homepages.gold.ac.uk/londonjournal/march2004/skilton.html [Accessed 4 November 2011].

Sobocinska, A. 2010a, Personal Engagements: Australian Travel to Asia 19412009, PhD thesis, Department of History, University of Sydney.

Sobocinska, A 2010b, 'The Language of Scars: Australian Prisoners of War and the Colonial Order, ' History Australia, vol. 7, no. 3: 59.159.20.

Sobocinska, A 2011, 'Innocence Lost and Paradise Regained: Bali and Australia's Place in the World, ' History Australia, vol. 8, no. 2: 199222.

Sommerlad, E. C. 1939, Circular letters, Sommerlad Family Papers, 18571992. ML MSS 6012/34.

Soul, G. 1899, Journals of Gertrude A. Soul. Soul Family Papers, 18561972. ML MSS 6197.

Soul, W. H. 1899, Journal of a Trip to Europe and America Leaving Sydney 29th March, 1899And Returning to the Same Place January, 1900, Soul Family Papers, 18561972. ML MSS 6197.

Spielvogel, N. 1907, A Gumsucker on the Tramp, 4th edition. G. Robertson, Melbourne.

Spielvogel, N 1914, The Gumsucker at Home. G. Robertson, Melbourne.

Street, Lady B. 1929, Letters from Sir Philip and Lady Street to Ernest and Norah Street, Street Family Papers. ML MSS 1933.

Street, Sir P. 1929, Letters from Sir Philip and Lady Street to Ernest and Norah Street, Street Family Papers. ML MSS 1933.

Symons, M. 1982, One Continuous Picnic: A History of Eating in Australia. Duck Press, Adelaide.

Taylor, G. A. 1918, 'Those Were the Days': Being Reminiscences of Australian Artists and Writers. Tyrrell's, Sydney.

Trinca, M. 2009, 'Part of the Pageant: Australian Tourists in London, ' in Australians in Britain: The Twentieth Century Experience, (eds) C. Bridge, R. Crawford & D. Dunstan. Monash e-press, Melbourne. Online, available: http://books.publishing.monash.edu/apps/bookworm/view/Australians+in+Britain%3A+The+Twentieth-Century+Experience/137/xhtml/chapter12.html [Accessed 4 November 2011].

Trinca, M. 2010, Part of the Pageant: Australian Tourists in London after World War 2, PhD thesis, Department of History, University of Sydney.

Twigg, A. B. 1968, Diary 21 June24 July 1968Holiday to the USA, Ireland, England, Italy and Hong Kong. ML MSS 4015.

Walton, J. 2009, 'Marketing the Imagined Past: Captain Cook and Cultural Tourism in North Yorkshire, ' in Managing Regional Tourism: A Case Study of Yorkshire, England, (ed.) T. Rhodri. Great Northern Books, Ilkley: 22032.

Ward, S. 2001, Australia and the British Embrace The Demise of the Imperial Ideal. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Watson, N. 2006, The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain. Palgrave, Basingstoke.

White, H. 1973, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

White, R. 1981, Inventing Australia: Images and Identity, 16881980. Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

White, R 1986, 'Bluebells and Fogtown: Australians' First Impressions of England 18601940, ' Australian Cultural History, vol. 5: 4459.

White, R 1987a, 'Overseas, ' in Australians: A Historical Library, Vol. 4: Australians 1938, (eds) B. Gammage & P. Spearritt. Fairfax Syme Weldon, Sydney: 43545.

White, R 1987b, 'The Soldier as Tourist: The Australian Experience of the Great War, ' War & Society, vol. 5, no. 1: 6377.

White, R 1997, 'The Retreat from Adventure: Popular Travel Writing in the 1950s, ' Australian Historical Studies, vol. 28, no. 109: 90105.

White, R 2001, 'Cooees across the Strand: Australian Travellers in London and the Performance of National Identity, ' Australian Historical Studies, vol. 32, no. 116: 10927.

White, R 2008, 'Australian Journalists, Travel Writing and China: James Hingston, the Vagabond" and G. E. Morrison, ' Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 32, no. 2: 23750."

White, R 2009, 'Australian Tourists in Britain 19002000, ' in Australians in Britain: The Twentieth Century Experience, (eds) C. Bridge, R. Crawford & D. Dunstan. Monash e-press, Melbourne. Online, available: http://books.publishing.monash.edu/apps/bookworm/view/Australians+in+Britain%3A+The+Twentieth-Century+Experience/137/xhtml/chapter11.html [Accessed 4 November 2011].

White, R 2012, 'Armchair Tourism: The Popularity of Australian Travel Writing, ' in Sold to the Millions: Australia's Bestsellers, (eds) A. Sarwal & T. Johnston-Woods. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne: 182202.

White, R 2013 (forthcoming), 'British Travellers and Australia's Past, ' in The British Abroad, (eds) M. Farr & X. Guegan. Manchester University Press, Manchester.

White, R. & Oldmeadow, L. 2009, 'Australian Tourists and English Food, ' in Beyond the Supermarket: Learning to Overcome Gastronomic Poverty, (eds) P. Mead & S. Bryan, Proceedings of the 15th Symposium of Australian Gastronomy 2007, Hobart: 2835.

Williams, R. 1961, The Long Revolution. Chatto & Windus, London.

Woollacott, A. 2001, To Try Her Fortune in London: Australian Women, Colonialism and Modernity. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Young, D. 1996, Making Crime Pay: The Evolution of Convict Tourism in Tasmania. TasmanianHistorical Research Association, Hobart.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/portal.v10i1.2402