Guide to the Papers of Geoffrey Fairbairn

MS 9326

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Papers of Geoffrey Fairbairn
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 9326
1.96 metres (14 boxes, 1 folio box)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The papers consist of general correspondence, family correspondence and papers, including correspondence of Anne Fairbairn, notecards, 32 notebooks, manuscripts and typescripts relating to Fairbairn's writings, journals, family photographs, and ephemera. There is also a large collection of newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous items including a South Vietnamese flag, a 45rpm vinyl record, and a tape recording of Fairbairn's funeral service.

The papers in the collection provide a very good selection of Fairbairn's writings, particularly those relating to Southeast Asian politics, the Vietnam War and guerrilla warfare. Also, the career of Fairbairn's father, James Valentine Fairbairn, during the time he was Federal Minister for Air (1939-40) in the Menzies Ministry is well documented in a book of newspaper clippings from 1940.

A number of items in the collection are in very poor condition, due to the effects of damp and mould. Anne Fairbairn has annotated many of the items.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Geoffrey Fairbairn, National Library of Australia, MS 9326, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers were acquired in 1998 from Fairbairn's wife, Anne Fairbairn, under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme.


As the papers were in considerable disarray, the Library has imposed its own arrangement on the papers.


Fairbairn's publications include: Revolutionary warfare and communist strategy: the threat to South-East Asia, Faber, 1968; Revolutionary guerrilla warfare: the countryside version, Penguin, 1974.

Biographical Note

Geoffrey Forrester Fairbairn was a Reader in History at the Australian National University, Canberra, and a well-respected commentator on Southeast Asian politics.

Fairbairn was born in Melbourne on 6 October 1924. He was the son of James Valentine Fairbairn, who was Minister for Air in 1939-40 in the first Menzies Ministry. His father died tragically in an air disaster in Canberra in 1940. The RAAF Fairbairn Base in Canberra was named in his honour in 1941.

Fairbairn attended Geelong Grammar School, leaving early to serve with the Royal Australian Navy during World War II. After demobilisation, he went on to obtain a Degree of Bachelor of Arts from Cambridge University in 1949. He then spent some time in Australia working on the family's property in Victoria, before returning to England where he tried (unsuccessfully) to write novels. In 1961 Professor Manning Clark, who had been one of Fairbairn's teachers at Geelong Grammar School, offered him a lectureship in History at the Australian National University, which he accepted. He remained with the University until his retirement in 1979.

Fairbairn travelled extensively in Southeast Asia, and developed an abiding interest in the politics of the region. By the late 1960s, he was regarded as one of the leading conservative analysts of the Vietnam War and Southeast Asian affairs generally. Fairbairn became the country's foremost expert on the theory of guerrilla warfare, publishing two books on the subject.

Fairbairn was married twice. In 1945 he married Rosamund, daughter of the 13th Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. They had three children. They were divorced, and in 1965 he married Anne Body, neƩ Reid, granddaughter of Sir George Reid. Fairbairn died in London of lung cancer on 11 September 1980.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. General correspondence, 1959-79 Show allonly 1

Fairbairn had an extensive network of friends, including many who shared his conservative values. This series comprises a small collection of correspondence from both friends and colleagues. Principal correspondents include John Bennetts, Gerald Caine, Axel Clark, Manning Clark, Pat Connelly, Sir James Darling, Ken Gee, John Gorton, Bill Heseltine, Brian Hill, A.G.W. (Bill) Keys, John Manifold, B.A. Santamaria, Bob Swan, Jim Taylor, and Denis Warner

Folder 3 contains correspondence from Vladimir Lezak-Borin, a prominent Czechoslovakian Communist who migrated to Australia in 1952 and became a close friend of Fairbairn.

The correspondence has been sorted by year.

File 1-2. Letters from friends and colleagues (1959-79). Also included are letters from B.A. (Bob) Santamaria regarding the development of a 'Code of Principles' for the 'Defend Australia Committee' and typescript notes for discussion (1965) - Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 3. Correspondence between Fairbairn and Vladimir Lezak-Borin. Included are two photographs of Lezak-Borin, 1961-68. (See also Series 6) - Box 1 Show allonly 1

File 4. Correspondence, mainly with publishers Faber and Faber, relating to publication and promotion of Fairbairn's book Revolutionary warfare and communist strategy: the threat to South-East Asia, 1968, 286pp. Included is a review of the book. (See also Series 2) - Box 1 Show allonly 1

Series 2. Fairbairn's writings, 1961-79 Show allonly 1

This series comprises papers, mostly undated, relating to Fairbairn's writings. They include notes, draft typescript of articles, seminar papers, notecards and loose pages of poetry, prose and fiction. Also included are copies of Fairbairn's two books about guerrilla warfare, as well as bound typescript of two unpublished works of fiction.

(See also Series 3 and 4)

File 1. Notes and draft typescripts of articles. Topics include guerrilla warfare, Vietnam, terrorism, and Southeast Asian politics. Also included are handwritten notes made by Fairbairn while he was in Vietnam, 1968 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 2. Typescript of miscellaneous writings. They include book reviews, the outline for a work on Vietnam, book chapters and numerous loose pages. Topics include colonialism, imperialism, and an account by Fairbairn of an experience in Borneo in World War II and a trip to Southeast Asia in 1951. Also included are draft typescripts of two pieces about Vietnam, entitled Cordon and Search and Operation Oakleigh - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 3-4. Papers relating to Fairbairn's work as an academic. They include notes, tutorial topics, exam questions, and typescript notes on Muslim India for lecture presentations. Also included is a copy of an essay by Stephen Holt entitled James Mill's history of British India: the historian as legislator, 1970 - Box 2 Show allonly 1

File 5. Copies of papers from two seminars at which Fairbairn was a speaker. The first was a seminar on the 'Provincial Press' held at the University of New England in May 1968, and the second was a seminar on 'China and the future of Southeast Asia' organised by the Australian Institute of International Affairs (A.I.I.A.) in July 1968. Also included is the draft of an address to the Queensland National Party, 1979 - Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 6-7. Notecards and loose pages of handwritten and typed poetry and prose (1961-79). Also included are handwritten and typescript drafts of short stories and book chapters - Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 8. Copy of Fairbairn's book Revolutionary warfare and communist strategy: the threat to South-East Asia, Faber, 1968. The book contains copies of reviews and several congratulatory letters. (See also Series 1) - Box 3 Show allonly 1

File 9-10. Two copies of Fairbairn's book Revolutionary guerrilla warfare: the countryside version, Penguin, 1974. One copy is an uncorrected proof, and the other is a paperback edition inscribed 'For Margaret ..., 16 October 1979' - Box 3, 4 Show allonly 1

File 11. Typescript draft of an unpublished novel 'The Peking microbe: a story of German warfare' or alternative title 'Across the river is China', n.d - Box 4 Show allonly 1

File 12. Typescript draft of an unpublished novel 'The shabby Asian', n.d - Box 4 Show allonly 1

Series 3. Notebooks Show allonly 1

This series comprises a number of notebooks kept by Fairbairn, mostly undated. The majority contain rough notes, quotations and random jottings. Many comprise only several pages of notes, with the remainder of the notebook blank. Several of the notebooks contain writings mainly relating to Southeast Asian politics, and these have been grouped together. In the remainder of the notebooks there are writings on a variety of topics, often with several topics covered in the one notebook. These topics include world politics, art, religion, and travel notes.

File 1. Notebook containing miscellaneous notes, jottings, scraps of prose, notes for articles and an idea for a novel. They cover a wide range of topics, and many appear to be political and social observations made while Fairbairn was in the United Kingdom. Also included is a typescript of a paper entitled 'Random notes on England', 1961 - Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 2. Notebook containing manuscript of an unpublished novel 'The island and the flame' or 'The island and the fire', plus other writings - Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 3 - 4. Twelve notebooks, mostly relating to Southeast Asian politics - Box 5 Show allonly 1

File 5 - 7. Eighteen notebooks covering a variety of topics - Box 5, 6 Show allonly 1

Series 4. Newspaper clippings and journals, 1940-1980 Show allonly 1

Fairbairn published widely in a variety of journals, newspapers and magazines. This series comprises the collection of newspaper clippings and journals he compiled of his writings. Topics mainly relate to Southeast Asian politics and the Vietnam War.

A number of the clippings have been photocopied, due to the poor condition of the original.

File 1. The contents of a scrapbook of newspaper clippings. They consist of a collection of articles written by Fairbairn on issues relating to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, China, and Vietnam, as well as book reviews (1967-68). Also included is a collection of articles by other authors on issues relating to India, Japan and Malaysia, mostly from the journal Far Eastern Economic Review, 1978-79 - Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 2. Journals which contain articles written by Fairbairn, mostly relating to the Vietnam War. They include Australian Outlook, Current Affairs Bulletin, Dissent, Hawk, Hemisphere, Nation, News Weekly, Pacific Community, Pacific Defence Reporter, Prospect, and Vietnam Digest, 1961-78 - Box 6 Show allonly 1

File 3. Journal and newspaper clippings of articles, reviews and letters to the editor written by Fairbairn, and mostly relating to Southeast Asian politics, 1959-80 - Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 4. Newspaper clippings of articles by other authors, many relating to Vietnam and Southeast Asian politics, 1957-79 - Box 7 Show allonly 1

File 5. Newspaper clippings, 1941-73. Included are reports of the naming of Canberra Aerodrome as the Fairbairn Aerodrome, in memory of Fairbairn's father (1941), and a copy of the journal Stand to containing an article about the air disaster in which Fairbairn's father was killed - Box 7 Show allonly 1

File Folio 1. A large scrapbook of newspaper and journal clippings of articles, letters to the editor, and book reviews written by Fairbairn, and covering a range of topics, 1962-64 - Folio-Box Folio Show allonly 1

File Folio 2. A scrapbook of newspaper clippings from 1940, relating to Fairbairn's father, James Valentine Fairbairn, who was the Federal Minister for Air, 1939-40 - Folio-Box Folio Show allonly 1

Series 5. Family correspondence and papers, 1936 - 82 (bulk 1970-80) Show allonly 1

This series mainly comprises personal correspondence between Fairbairn and members of his family, together with other related papers. The correspondence has been sorted by year.

File 1-20. Family correspondence and papers - Box 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Show allonly 1

Series 6. Miscellaneous, 1832, 1877, 1959-80 Show allonly 1

This series contains a miscellaneous collection of material, including papers, journals and ephemera.

File 1. Writings of Vladimir Lezak-Borin, mostly undated. Included are copies of booklets: How to betray your country (about Lenin and communism), The protectorate of Czechoslovakia and This may happen to you (about the Vietnam War), with an introduction by Fairbairn. Also included are typescripts of a number of short pieces on issues relating to communism, and typescripts of two larger works, one entitled Human Manifesto. (See also Series 1) - Box 13 Show allonly 1

File 2. Typescript of a series of short stories on marriage and relationships by Mrs Miroslava Kramer (a friend of Lezak-Borin) - Box 13 Show allonly 1

File 3-4. Thirty copies of the journal Nation, 1969-72 - Box 13 Show allonly 1

File 5-6. Copies of papers presented at a conference Fairbairn attended on New foundations for Asian and Pacific Security, Pattaya, Thailand, 1979 - Box 13, 14 Show allonly 1

File 7. Copies of six papers presented at a seminar entitled "Loss of faith' as reflected in Australian literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries', held by the Christopher Brennan Society, Wesley College, University of Sydney, 1978. The papers were presented by Vincent Buckley, Manning Clark, Dorothy Green, A.D. Hope, Patrick Morgan and Elizabeth Perkins. Also included are copies of Tribune, 1977 and Clarion, 1980 - Box 14 Show allonly 1

File 8. This folder contains the following items: - Box 14 Show allonly 1

A Christmas card from Harold and Zara Holt to Fairbairn's mother and stepfather (1964), a letter from Sir Robert Menzies to Fairbairn's mother (1967), a copy of the memorial service for Harold Edward Holt in Westminster Abbey, London (1968), a copy of the memorial service for Lt. Col. Frederick Spencer Chapman, London (1971), a small book The imitation of Christ given to Fairbairn in 1953 by Reg Keating, a booklet Warning to the Western world by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1976), a coloured print of a work entitled Summer Bounty by Albert Williams (1959), and two news banners, one announcing the death of Lord Casey (1976) and one with the heading 'The Bulletin January 8, 1966/Geoffrey Fairbairn's Vietnam/Memories of a Jewish Boyhood'. Also included are a roneoed copy of a typescript letter, dated 1832, from J. Woolley (Professor Joseph Woolley) to his father, describing his arrival in Sydney and his first impressions; a typescript account by P.S. Lang (1968) of 'The death of William Ruddock', an employee of Mt Elephant Station (the Fairbairn's family property) who died in 1857; and a photograph of a cricket team with the notation 'The Jolimonters at Adelaide 1877'.

File 9. One South Vietnamese flag, and a 45 rpm vinyl record entitled Wisdom of years, by Major the Rev. John Fall, Rhodesian Army Corps of Chaplains - Box 14 Show allonly 1