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Eligible men: men, families and masculine duty in Great War Australia
journal contributionposted on 2017-01-01, 00:00 authored by Bart ZiinoBart Ziino
This article investigates how Australian men and their families negotiated the competing demands of military duty and domestic male responsibility during the First World War. This was a matter of real consequence in a nation that did not impose conscription for overseas military service: men were obliged to weigh the duty they might feel to their nation and empire against that which they owed to their families. As many as one in two military-aged men responded to calls to enlist; just as many declined to do so. Wartime and post-war efforts to build hierarchies of citizenship with returned servicemen at their apex have, however, obscured the realities faced by those thousands of Australians who did not enlist. This article argues that despite the potent language of martial citizenship, space existed within families and communities to assert the legitimacy of men remaining at home as breadwinners, fathers, sons and carers. The presence and responsibilities of the breadwinning male were integral to family economies that would not be conceded readily to the war. Those confronted by this choice were not rejecting one form of manhood in favour of another. Rather, their experiences show that the definitions and obligations of manhood remained delicately and painfully indexed to material realities.