The AIIA has lost a stalwart of the organisation with the death of Professor Peter Boyce, AO FAIIA.
Born in Perth in 1935, Peter was a student of Fred Alexander (himself a pioneering figure in the AIIA), helping his erstwhile supervisor in the preparation of the monumental university history, Campus at Crawley (1963). After pursuing a master’s degree in modern history at the University of Western Australia (UWA), Peter travelled to the United States, undertaking doctoral studies in political science at Duke University’s newly established Commonwealth Studies Center. His extensive research work in Southeast Asia on regional diplomacy – conducted under conditions somewhat more challenging than in recent years – began during his time at Duke. In this period, he made the first of many scholarly connections with Oxford University, becoming a senior associate member of St Antony’s College in 1966–67.
Peter was a research fellow and later fellow in the Department of International Relations at the Australian National University, then moved to the University of Tasmania, ultimately becoming reader in the Political Science Department. He was subsequently a professor of government at the University of Queensland, and then of political science at UWA. Australian and regional diplomacy were his principal teaching and research interests, and he devoted considerable efforts to developing these fields in his professional roles.
Peter served as vice-chancellor of Murdoch University, from 1985 to 1996. At Murdoch, he established the highly regarded Law School, and did his best to manage a John Dawkins-inspired plan to amalgamate Murdoch with other institutions in Perth, though the plan foundered on opposition in the WA parliament. His expertise in diplomacy was reflected in some major achievements at Murdoch, notably the award to Dr Tony Tan, then an influential Singaporean political figure, of an honorary doctorate, thus placating the always tetchy Singaporean government and ensuring the continuing popularity of Murdoch with Singaporean students. In this task, he had the assistance of former WA premier Sir Charles Court, who, adventitiously, had been induced to take an advisory role at the university. Peter was made an officer in the Order of Australia in 1995 “for services to education, international relations and the community.”
Peter made many contributions to scholarship. His first book, Malaysia and Singapore in International Diplomacy (1968) was a pioneering work on the Southeast Asian region. Developing ideas introduced in that work, in Foreign Affairs for New States: Some Questions of Credentials (1977) Peter analysed the transformation wrought in the practice of diplomacy, with its attendant impact on the international system, by the emergence through decolonisation of a multiplicity of new state actors. His case studies included Southeast Asia and also the Pacific. His wide knowledge of diplomacy led to many advisory roles, notably as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s authoritative historical series, Documents on Australian Foreign Policy. He also served as an adviser to the National Archives of Australia.
Peter devoted a great deal of time and professional effort over a long period to the activities and mission of the AIIA. He spent five years, from 1973 to 1977 as editor of Australian Outlook (now the Australian Journal of International Affairs), and presided over the AIIA’s Tasmania branch on two separate occasions, on the latter reviving the fortunes of what might otherwise have become a moribund local institution. With Jim Angel he edited two volumes in the Australia in World Affairs series, taking on that task with the retirement of its founders, Gordon Greenwood and Norman Harper.
Following his years in Perth, Peter returned to what became his favourite Australian city, Hobart, becoming a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science of the University of Tasmania. He continued with an active program of scholarly engagement and writing, including advising the government of Tasmania on parliamentary reform in his Review of the proposal to restore the House of Assembly to 35 members (2011).
Amongst his many interests, Peter was much preoccupied with local and transnational sources of authority in Australia, a theme to be found in his early master’s thesis. In 2008, he published The Queen’s Other Realms: The Crown and Its Legacy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, a careful consideration of the implications in these polities of the continuing role of the Crown. With the possible demise of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a sovereign entity, especially given the likely attendant impact on the constitutional foundations of Australia, this book remains required reading.
Peter’s long acquaintance with the history and practice of diplomacy stood him in good stead in the preparation of his assiduously researched work on church history, God and the City: a History of St David’s Cathedral (2012). Committed to teaching as well as writing, though emeritus for some years, he offered a course in Australian foreign policy at the University of Tasmania, and over almost two decades was active in Hobart U3A, latterly becoming its patron.
A kind, thoughtful, tolerant and wise scholar, Peter Boyce ranked with the best of his generation.
James Cotton FAIIA is Emeritus Professor, University of NSW, Australian Defence Force Academy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (London) and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.
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