Nugget Coombs and his place in the postwar order

Evan Jones, University of Sydney


The publication of Tim Rowse’s biography of H.C. Coombs, A Reforming Life, provides an appropriate context to further explore the life of Coombs. In particular, the relationship between Coombs and his environment is an important consideration, given Coombs’ iconic status in ‘progressive’ circles in Australia. Inquiry into the factors that both facilitated and constrained Coombs’ influence suggests that his influence has been overstated. This juxtaposition may provide insight into the nature of postwar reconstruction and the long boom in Australia, important periods that remain inadequately understood. Finally, Coombs’ experience is relevant for a better understanding of the origins of the current economic policy regime in Australia.

Dr Evan Jones is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. His research on the politics of economic and industry policies in Australia between 1945–60 has been published recently in the Australian Economic History Review, the Australian Journal of Public Administration, Prometheus, and Rural Society. Jones draws on archival research and personal interviews to illuminate the complexity of the historical process and to provide a broader perspective on the history of post-war reconstruction in Australia. His email address is <>.

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