The research papers of Tom Fitzgerald


'A significant collection'

The research papers of Tom Fitzgerald are particularly significant because of the detail of the investigative and analytical work undertaken by Fitzgerald and how this is clearly documented in his files. This is the only known John Curtin biographical endeavour not to reach publication.

The 539 files assemble a wealth of background material on Curtin – identifying pieces written anonymously by him in the Westralian [Worker], plotting the formation of his ideas through his writings before World War One, tracking down his reading choices and political activities for the same period, corresponding with contemporaries and particularly with his daughter over a fifteen year period. All this material has been annotated and, in part, collated by Fitzgerald into sections that demonstrate where the biography was heading.

Simon Taafe, Book & manuscript valuer, 2002

The value of the material in the collection is significantly enhanced by Fitzgerald’s detective work .. and his extensive annotations and notes. He wrote to Peter Ryan, ‘I’ve an insatiable appetite for ..morsels of actuality’ [1] and he had the investigative journalist’s concern for thoroughness and accuracy... Economist Dr John Edwards, who has used the collection for his own research on Curtin, considers that Tom Fitzgerald carried out a tremendous labour in pursuing, analysing and annotating the development of Curtin’s economic ideas and believes that there is no other comparable source of information for following this development.

Baiba Berzins, Freelance archivist and historian, 2002

Arrangement & description of the research papers

The records of Tom Fitzgerald are accessible via the JCPML Electronic Research Archive (ERA). Material is arranged in ERA in a hierarchical structure which has either three or four levels, depending on the degree of detail needed to adequately describe the records. The levels are: Creator; Series; File; and Item. Selected records have been digitised and are available as images and/or full text files while finding aids are provided for material that has not been digitised.

There are three series for creator Tom Fitzgerald. Each series contains one or more files. Many of the files are further subdivided into items. Follow the links to each of the series below to access the records in ERA and then work through the hierarchy to the files and items. Images and text, where available, are attached to either files or items and are accessed by clicking on the Go to digital objects icon which is a red and white arrow.

Research notes for a biography of John Curtin - Files c.1952-c.1992.

This series consists primarily of photocopied material, most annotated by Fitzgerald. The annotated, photocopied material is often accompanied by Fitzgerald’s own notes, illustrating his thoughts about particular issues, his evaluation of sources, matters to be clarified, etc. There is much duplication since Fitzgerald’s method of working was to create files which contained material from a particular source and then to distribute duplicate copies of relevant material to files dealing with particular topics. The topics encompass individuals (eg Frank Anstey, WM Hughes) and events, organisations and issues (eg World War One, Compulsory military training, Education and Self-Education, Curtin and economics, Socialist newspaper, Victorian Socialist Party).

The range and volume of photocopied material is large: extracts from books, theses, pamphlets, journals and newspapers, press clippings, encyclopaedias and dictionaries, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, minutes of meetings and copies of items from manuscript and archive collections. The research material includes the origins and history of political terms, philosophies and movements. The research material includes information which dates from as early as c.1789.

This series also contains Fitzgerald’s correspondence with contemporaries of Curtin and other relevant correspondence about sources and information relevant to Curtin, including notes of interviews and conversations (with, eg Sir Paul Hasluck, Peter Ryan [of Melbourne University Press], Geoffrey Serle, Sir Percy Spender).

The most significant correspondence consists of the originals of letters to Fitzgerald from Curtin’s daughter Elsie Macleod, along with copies of Fitzgerald’s letters to Mrs Macleod and copies of material in Mrs Macleod’s possession relating to Curtin and his family and to issues arising in the letters (eg television program Hell Fire Jack, Curtin’s reading choices, Memorial Service for Curtin at Westminster Abbey). These letters span the period 1975 to 1992 and include the exchange of personal and family information between Elsie Macleod and Tom Fitzgerald and his wife, Margaret.

Research notes for a biography of John Curtin - Loose papers c. 1952-1992

This series contains original and copied material, similar to the series Research notes for a biography of John Curtin – files. It includes extracts from books, encyclopaedias and dictionaries, reports and papers, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, articles and book reviews from newspapers and journals, a photograph of John Curtin, a set of index cards created by Fitzgerald that provide references and information on specific people and events, and anti-conscription postcards from 1916. The large number of book extracts, on topics as varied as women, feminism, war, politics, philosophy, language, socialism, theology, science, histories, nationalism and culture, are generally not duplicated elsewhere in the Fitzgerald records. This series also contains loose notes bundled together under titles such as General notes re Curtin 1907-1979. The research material includes information which dates from as early as c.1789.

Correspondence & conversation notes, Tom Fitzgerald & Elsie Macleod. 1975 -1992

This series consists of copies of letters and conversation notes exchanged between Tom Fitzgerald and John Curtin’s daughter, Elsie Macleod, relating to the proposed biography of John Curtin, arranged as far as possible in chronological order. The correspondence and notes have been selected by the JCPML from originals contained in the series Research notes for a biography of John Curtin - Files.


1. John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Letter from Tom Fitzgerald to Peter Ryan, 13 April (no year) JCPML00653/20/7

Investigating John Curtin home
Curtin's writings under pen names