Obituary: Professor Tom Millar

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Thomas Bruce Millar, historian: born Kalamundu, Western Australia 18 October 1925; Head, Strategic Studies Centre, ANU 1966-70, 1982-84; Director, Australian Institute of International Affairs 1969-76; AO 1983; Head, Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, London University 1985-1990; books include Australia's Defence 1965, The Commonwealth and the United Nations 1967, Australia's Foreign Policy 1968, The East-West Strategic Balance 1981, Current International Treaties 1984, South African Dilemmas 1985; married 1951 Ann Drake-Brockman (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1986), 1990 Margaret Robinson (nee Thorp); died London 5 June 1994.

TOM MILLAR was an institution-builder. He was a leading force in launching the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in Canberra which is now the principal centre for its subject in Australia. He was also one of the founders of the Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at London University, and its second head, from 1985 to 1990. The Menzies Centre greatly helped the development and spread of Australian studies, not only in Britain but in Western Europe and, most recently, in Eastern Europe (especially Hungary, Poland and Rumania), where interest in Australia is burgeoning.

Millar was a patriotic Australian; an international man and scholar who wrote widely and well in the field of international relations and strategic studies. His writings, like his person, were invariably compact and neat, exuding an impression of lively curiosity and quiet authority.

Millar was born in Kalamundu, Western Australia, in 1925. His early education at the University of Western Australia was interrupted in 1942 by eight years' service in the Australian army before being resumed with the help of a Hackett Bursary and Commonwealth Scholarship. He completed his BA in Economics and History in 1953.

He began his military service as a Cadet at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1943 and graduated as a Lieutenant in 1944. He served in the Australian army from 1943 to 1950, in Australia, New Guinea and Japan (where he was an Intelligence Officer in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force). His final rank was as Major.

From the army Millar returned to academic life. First to the University of Melbourne where, as a part-time student whilst schoolteaching, he completed an MA degree in History with a thesis entitled 'History of the Defence Forces of the Port Philip District and Colony of Victoria 1836-1901'. Then he came to London on a Montagu Burton Studentship and completed a PhD thesis in 1960 at LSE on the Commonwealth in the United Nations.

Apart from a brief spell (1960-61) working as a Research Officer on the Commonwealth at the COI and a visiting postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University, New York (1961-62), the rest of Millar's academic and writing life was centred in Canberra or in London. He was a member of the Department of International Relations at the Australian National University from 1962 until his retirement, acting as Head on several occasions. He was Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the ANU, from 1966 to 1970, and Head again in 1982-84. He was Director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs from 1969 to 1976. He served on a number of Advisory Committees (both governmental and academic) and editorial boards whilst in Canberra, and was 'Academic-in-residence' in Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs (1979-80).

In 1985 Millar returned to London (on leave from the ANU) as the Head of the Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, a centre he had helped to get launched, and as Professor of Australian Studies at London University. He was to make London his main base for the rest of his life: after his retirement from the ANU and the Menzies Centre in 1990, he enjoyed fruitfully active research time first with the Centre of International Studies at the London School of Economics and then with the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College, London, where he was invariably available as a wise and experienced counsellor whilst moving steadily ahead with his own writing.

In 1982 Millar became a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and in the following year he was made an officer of the Order of Australia, an award which gave much pleasure to this quiet, modest man.

Tom Millar was a prolific writer. His best and most substantial writing undoubtedly was shown in his books on Australian defence and foreign policy, which were virtually the first single-volume comprehensive overviews of their subjects. They were well- informed, lucidly expressed and of value to a readership much wider than the universities where they soon became standard texts. This was appropriate and to be expected as Millar's circles of friends and acquaintances extended beyond academic life in Britain and Australia to encompass Chatham House and the International Institute of Strategic Studies (on whose Councils he served) and the Round Table Moot.

Millar was a Christian Scientist, a very keen family man, a bookman and a lover of music.

(Photograph omitted)