Publication Details

T. H. Irving 2013 ‘The triumph of green hearts over sere’: reflections on student radicalism at Sydney University in the 1910s and the 1960s’ Radical Sydney/Radical History

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Radical Sydney


At the end of the paper I sketch an argument for considering these two periods together, but I want to begin on a personal note. For some time I’ve been writing about left intellectuals in the early twentieth century, one of whom is Gordon Childe, and in the course of researching his undergraduate years at Sydney University between 1911 and 1913 I made a couple of interesting discoveries about student radicalism. I discovered the existence of a University Socialist Society in 1910 and 1911, a fact that nullified Alan Barcan’s claim in his book, Radical Students, that political clubs did not appear in Australian universities until after the First World War. Incidentally, this society also fails to get a mention in the University’s official histories. I discovered also that in 1911 the undergraduates threatened to strike, and that a group of students, while acting as ‘volunteers’ to break a gas strike in 1913, were beaten up by a gang of working class youths. Neither of these facts appears in Cliff Turney’s chapter in volume one of Australia’s First – A History of the University of Sydney.