Imperial values, national identity

Anthony Dermer (Department of English, University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Publication date: 4 June 2018



The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of national identity, as imparted to students by the Western Australia Education Department, in the early part of the twentieth century. By specifically examining The School Paper, as a part of a broader investigation into the teaching of English, this paper interrogates the role “school papers” played in the formation of the citizen subject.


This paper draws on all available editions of Western Australia’s Education Department school reader, The School Paper, between 1909 and 1911, and on the Department’s Education Circular publication between the years 1899 and 1911. These are read within the context of the prevailing education philosophy, internationally and domestically, and the extent to which it was shaped by Australia’s cultural heritage and the desire to establish a national identity in the years post-federation.


The School Paper featured stories, poems, songs and articles that complimented the goals of the new education. Used in supplement to a revised curriculum weighted towards English classics, The School Paper, provided an important site for citizenship training. This publication pursued dual projects of constructing a specific Australian identity while defining a British imperial identity from which it is informed.


This research builds on scholarship on the role of school readers in other states in the construction of national identity and the formation of the citizen subject. It is the first research conducted into Western Australia’s school paper, the school reader, and provides a new lens through which to view how the processes of national/imperial identities are carried out and influenced by state-sanctioned study of English.



Dermer, A. (2018), "Imperial values, national identity", History of Education Review, Vol. 47 No. 1, pp. 25-39.

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