This article examines men’s responses to the 1916 ‘Call to Arms’ appeal, in which Australia’s federal government questioned military-aged male citizens on their willingness to enlist voluntarily in the armed forces for service at the front. It argues that the appeal illuminated men’s difficult negotiation of choice, in which they weighed their personal sense of obligation to the state at war, to their families, and to themselves. It shows how men not only confronted their decision, but measured their responsibilities against others’, producing a subjective order of sacrifice that paralysed recruiting. In the absence of conscription, that private decision-making was critical to the nature of Australia’s commitment to the war, as men assessed and re-assessed the limits of obligation for themselves.
Field of Research
210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)