About the Project

For many soldiers, their experiences in World War War exposed them to travel for the first time, and once the war was over infrastructure of mass mobilisation opened up the world to massified leisure travel on a scale never experienced before. Advances in technology contracted space and brought “the world to your door,” as the Australian BP Magazine promised to its readers. Modernity and mobility were linked, and the images of the wider world were brought home to readers in magazines, travelogues, film, radio, and cinema.

Yet some cultural histories continue to neglect this aspect of the interwar period; in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, the paradigms of national literary studies have tended to celebrate authors whose books were linked to nation narration. As such, novels that illuminated the experience of the land have been remembered at the expense of stories and authors who themselves travelled or who brought readers hungry for fantasies from abroad stories set elsewhere. In addition, authors who chronicled the Great Depression or campaigned for the poor have been remembered at the expense of a large amount of cultural production that focused on leisure culture through the twenties and thirties. The period between the wars was also the era of modernist literary experiments, and scholarly attention to densely symbolic modernist writing under-emphasises of a wide range of material that people actually read during that time, which has been largely forgotten. Despite its less serious ambitious, this material is nonetheless valuable because of the cultural attitudes and preoccupations that it conveys to a contemporary reader who has also forgotten these. One of these forgotten attitudes is outlook across the Pacific during this time. The Jazz Age and the Lost Generation of Fitzgerald and Hemingway were all enabled by transatlantic mobility between the wars, yet the bright memory of the Lost Generation has eclipsed images of mobility and travel that splashed across the Pacific during this era, much of related to imagined travel, but some of it also quite real.

The Pacific was the last ocean and the last region to open up for mass travel, and when it did during this era, Australia and New Zealand had a special relationship to this region as their neighborhood, a fact that is often forgotten after the golden age of the passenger liner was replaced by jet travel and transit skipped over the Pacific altogether, with the exception of the American tropical holiday destination of Hawaii.

As American influences made their way across the ocean, different images of the Pacific and its regions collided, intersected, and co-mingled, and our project inquires about these: the planter met the travel writer; the anthropologist met south seas cinema, tourism met imperialism, the leisure traveller met the political strategist, the new woman booked passage, and the Australasian met the American. This convergence of mobilities and modernities across the Pacific is on spectacular display in magazines of this period, and this project makes them, and these themes, its centre of interest. In our period of study between the wars, the golden age of the passenger liner met the golden age of the magazine, and during this earlier period of new media grand American magazines such as Esquire, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and the National Geographic had lesser known equivalents such as MAN, The Home, The BP Magazine, the New Zealand Woman’s Mirror, and Walkabout.

Our project draws from a selection of Australian mainstream magazines of the period, using them as portals into a former age of converged media when stories, news items, cartoons, film and book reviews, photography, popular science, and advertising showcase the different ways in which these themes converge: modernity, mobility, travel, and the Pacific. Our research thus draws from oceanic metaphors to consider this material also as “portholes” that give the contemporary reader insight into the interwar imaginary of various landfalls, destinations, travel experiences, identities, and other related themes.

Our outputs will include a suite of scholarly articles that will be placed in research journals in literary studies, history, mobility studies, oceanic studies, and media studies. A book is also planned. This website is conceived as the visual companion of these scholarly publications.

As research develops, we will be updating images and information about the magazines, stories that featured mobility, advertisements, and more.