‘Westralia shall be free! : The secession of Western Australia and the state of the British Empire, 1933-1935

Journal article


Fletcher, Robert S. G. and Mountford, Benjamin. (2023). ‘Westralia shall be free! : The secession of Western Australia and the state of the British Empire, 1933-1935. Contemporary British History. pp. 1-31. https://doi.org/10.1080/13619462.2023.2217106
AuthorsFletcher, Robert S. G. and Mountford, Benjamin
Abstract

In 1935, a Joint Parliamentary Committee at Westminster reported on ‘The Petition from the State of Western Australia in Relation to Secession’. The culmination of a process triggered by a 1933 referendum, when two-thirds of West Australians voted to secede from the Australian Commonwealth, the Joint Committee famously resolved that Western Australia’s petition was ‘not proper to be received’. Not for the last time in British history, a referendum result promising sweeping constitutional change collided with the practicalities of its implementation. But while Western Australia’s secession movement foundered, it nonetheless sparked a series of debates around London’s obligations to overseas Britons, Britannic identity, and the future of imperial relations. While previous scholarship has for the most part focused on the local and national dimensions of Western Australian secession, this article examines it as a window onto the complex political partnerships that comprised Britain’s interwar empire. It makes the case for the movement’s imperial significance and offers the first substantive investigation of its influence on interwar imperial affairs. It argues that West Australian secession deserves more serious consideration than it has traditionally been awarded, not only as a local and national question, but above all as an imperial issue.

KeywordsBritish Empire; Imperial politics; Western Australia; secession; Federation
Year2023
JournalContemporary British History
Journal citationpp. 1-31
PublisherRoutledge
ISSN1361-9462
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/13619462.2023.2217106
Page range1-31
FunderMenzies Research Institute
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Australian Catholic University (ACU)
Forrest Research Foundation
UK Arts and Humanities Research Council
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusIn press
Publication dates
Online03 Jul 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited17 Jul 2023
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