Date of Award


Degree Name

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Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Christine de Matos

Second Supervisor

Dr Susanna Rizzo


Historians of fascism and the far-right in Australia have generally focused on the role of material factors to the neglect of the role of ideas. Certainly, the history of ideas can never be divorced from the ‘concrete’ factors of politics and economics. But in the case of William Baylebridge (1883-1942), William Hardy Wilson (1881-1955), and Randolph William Hughes (1889-1955), ideas played a definite and decisive role in their embrace of fascism as the solution to society’s ills. They were artists and intellectuals in the so-called ‘vitalist’ tradition, drawing on the ideas of such thinkers as Hegel, Bergson, and Nietzsche, among others. Baylebridge was a writer and poet who embraced the prophetic idiom of Nietzsche and Gabriele D’Annunzio to promote his vision for Australia, which he termed the ‘New Nationalism’. Wilson was a noted writer, architect, and critic, and a somewhat seminal figure in the history of Australian art, whose embrace of certain fascist ideas has only been obliquely acknowledged by historians. Hughes was a poet and scholar of French literature who became deeply involved with the fascist movements of Germany and France after resigning from the University of London in 1935. In this thesis, their personal and intellectual developments will be explored not only to determine their own particular reasons for embracing fascist ideas and the fascist cause, but also to identify the various ideas and streams of thought that were present in Australia in that period that contributed to this development. To this end, this thesis will apply the theory and method of political theorist Roger Griffin, which seems to have had only a limited influence on Australian scholarship. Consequently, in applying his theory and method in a comparative case study of Wilson, Hughes, and Baylebridge, this thesis has uncovered new insights into the development of fascist politics and ideology in Australia and has demonstrated that ideas played a greater role in this development than previously understood, thus expanding our understanding of the fascist phenomenon as a whole.

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