Reading The Discovery of India in the Library of an Australian Prime Minister

  • Sybil NolanEmail author
Part of the New Directions in Book History book series (NDBH)


Robert Menzies, prime minister of Australia from 1939 to 1941, and from 1949 to 1966, was an interested actor in the British Empire’s transition during the mid-twentieth century. His library of almost 4,000 volumes contains many books with imperial themes. Nolan uses Franco Moretti’s ‘distant reading’ methods to map the imperial and postcolonial discourse formations in the library’s catalogue. She then focuses on Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India (1946), which the Indian prime minister presented to Menzies. Several early pages in Menzies’ copy are unopened, suggesting he left off reading. By comparing the library’s discourse formations, and reading The Discovery against other texts, Nolan evinces Menzies’ resistance to the British Empire’s devolution. She also demonstrates methods for researching book history under conditions of restricted access.


British Empire Book history Franco Moretti Robert Menzies Jawaharlal Nehru 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneAustralia

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