Australia – ‘a British Outpost’ – and War with Japan: Some newspaper echoes of White Australia policy fears, 1941-1942

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter argues that Australia's response to Japan's military attacks at the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942 resonated strongly with White Australia Policy fears of Asia in general, and anti-Japanese sentiment in particular. Using newspapers from across Australia, and focussing on the occurrence of 'the yellow peril,' a consistent nineteenth century theme in the British outpost, and related descriptions of Japanese physical appearance, reactions to both the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, and the February 1942 bombing of Darwin, show the level of Australian national anxiety. Previous dependence on Britain for security purposes, with additional reliance on her navy based at Singapore, had not necessitated the development of strong local defence systems. Thus evidence of both Japanese aggression and military victories created intense local tensions. The use of newspapers provides access to contemporary attitudes, often tinged with the legacy of nineteenth century colonial racism, as well as to the uncertainties and political pressures created by these attacks. Because many Australians felt their fears of possible Japanese invasion were not always understood in London, the nation emerged from the World War Two experience with greatly reduced certainty about future protection from Great Britain.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld War II Re-explored
Subtitle of host publicationSome New Millenium Studies in the History of the Global Conflict
EditorsJaroslaw Suchoples, Stephanie James, Barbara Törnquist-Plewa
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherPeter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-631-77767-1, 978-3-631-77766-4, 978-3-631-77768-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-631-77740-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • World War 2
  • World War II
  • Australia -- History
  • Japanese military
  • White Australia Policy
  • British Colony
  • Bombing of Darwin
  • White Australia
  • Yellow Peril
  • Anti-Japanese sentiment
  • Racism


Dive into the research topics of 'Australia – ‘a British Outpost’ – and War with Japan: Some newspaper echoes of White Australia policy fears, 1941-1942'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this