David Lowe

Staff member

David Lowe holds a chair in contemporary history at Deakin. He is a historian of modern international relations and Australia in world affairs. He is also interested in the remembering of aspects of the recent past, and, with colleague Tony Joel, is series editor of Routledge’s Remembering the Modern World series.

David studied history at Monash University before completing a PhD at Cambridge, UK. With the exception of two years at the University of London in the mid-1990s and some shorter-term fellowships, he has been based at Deakin. His teaching focuses primarily on nineteenth and twentieth century international history, historiography, conflict and memory in modern Asia, and aspects of Australia in world affairs.

David has been involved in Deakin’s growth in humanities and social sciences research – for ten years between 2005 and 2014 he held the leadership roles of head of school, acting dean, and head of a research institute. During this period, with colleagues, he formed the Contemporary Histories Research Group and the Australian Policy and History Network. This network encourages historians to expose the historical dimensions of current policy problems, a theme that recurs in David’s work, and has resulted in his joining advisory and editorial groups with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

When he is not teaching or researching history, David is usually hiking and bird-spotting, extending his knowledge and experience of Australian wines, or puzzling over how he, a Hawthorn-supporter, survives in Geelong.

  • Research

    A big theme of David’s research is the changes in Asia during the twentieth century and the implications of these changes for Australians. He has published and edited books on Australia in the Cold War, Australia and decolonisation, the making of Australian foreign policy, and a biography of former Minister of External Affairs and Australia’s longest-serving Ambassador to the United States, Percy Spender.  His Menzies and the Great World Struggle (1999), Australian Between Empires: the Life of Percy Spender (2010), Australia Goes to Washington (2016) and a chapter on ‘Security’ in the Cambridge History of Australia (2013) are among the publications resulting from this theme.

    David currently is researching a history of Australia’s foreign aid program. He has also researched the history of Australian cultural diplomacy, including the role of international students in building international connections and reputation. One project, with Jonathan Ritchie and Jemma Purdey, produced Scholarships and Connections, a publicly available oral history collection of scholarship holders from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea studying in Australia over 50 years.

    The above-listed projects have attracted government funding, including six Australian Research Council grants and several grants from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

    His more broadly-focused research includes the edited book The Unfinished Atomic Bomb with CHRG colleagues Cassandra Atherton and Alyson Miller (2017), and contributions to the above-mentioned Routledge series in Remembering the Cold War with Tony Joel (2014), and Remembering Independence with Carola Lentz (2018). He is currently writing an international history of the postwar Colombo Plan for economic development in South and Southeast Asia.

  • Teaching at Deakin

    David’s teaching has included units on Australia’s involvement in the two world wars, the Cold War world, Australian political history, and the legacies of twentieth century conflicts for politics and international relations in Asia. His research into ‘difficult remembering’ informs this dimension of his teaching, and his approach to contemporary history as the past that reverberates in the present.

  • Higher Degree by Research Supervision

    David supervises doctoral and research masters students in fields such as: the history of Australia in world affairs; history and policy formation; global and international relations history; and histories of cultural diplomacy. Current students are:

    • Ellen Gray, Australia and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution: Australian Foreign Policy at the United Nations and Beyond
    • Jeffrey Hole, Microeconomic reform in Australia through a contemporary lens
    • Anna Kent, History of Australian and New Zealand Aid for the Pacific History of Australian and New Zealand Aid for the Pacific
    • Hirokazu Matsui, Australia-Japan relations from Peace Treaty to the 1960s
    • Digby Wren, The Belt And Road Initiative: Determinants, Domains and Dislocations

    Graduated students include:

    • Khylie Daws (PhD thesis, Advancing Australia: cultural diplomacy during the Menzies era), now Business Development Manager-Cisco at Ingram Micro Information Technology and Services;
    • Daniel House (PhD thesis, Rethinking the Region: Australia and Britain’s withdrawal from Southeast Asia) now Associate Director, Load Planning, Victoria University; and
    • Lisa Couacaud (PhD thesis, The Ideal America(n): Dwight Eisenhower’s Elusive Search) now Policy Officer, Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
  • Awards and Fellowships

    David has benefited from several fellowships and honorary positions during his career. He has been a Harold White Fellow at the National Library of Australia, a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society, and a Visiting Fellow at King’s College, London. Most recently David was Smuts Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2018-19) and Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at the University of Tokyo (2019-20). In 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. He is also an Honorary Academic Fellow of the Australia India Institute and Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.

  • Media

    David has written for The Conversation and is a frequent contributor to radio and other media programs dealing with the history of Australia in world affairs. This includes two Radio National programs in 2020: The Sands of Ooldea, exploring the legacies of atomic testing in Australia; as well as a Rear Vision episode marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. He is also a co-founder and regular writer for the Australian Policy and History Network.

Australian Policy
 and History

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