Anthony Milner (historian)

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Professor Anthony Milner

Professor Anthony Milner[1] is an Australian historian of Southeast Asia – concerned primarily with the history of ideas – and a commentator on Australia-Asia relationships. His writings on Malay history and society – and the history of Islam in Southeast Asia – include Kerajaan: Malay Political Culture on the Eve of Colonial Rule (1982), an interdisciplinary (history/anthropology) study, published in a new edition in 2016. He is also co-editor of the series of volumes, Australia in Asia (see below), which examine the role of culture and values in Australia-Asia relationships; and of the Asialink report on Australia-ASEAN relations, Our Place in the Asian Century: Southeast Asia as the Third Way (2012). Currently, Anthony Milner is Professorial Fellow and International Director at Asialink, The University of Melbourne, and Visiting Professor at the Asia-Europe Institute, University of Malaya. He was Dean of Asian Studies at the Australian National University (1996–2005), and Basham Professor of Asian History (1924-2013). He is now Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University.

Anthony Milner has been concerned with the historical and cultural processes that shape the Asian region, and which also influence Australia's opportunities and security. In the last few years he has been focused on defining Southeast Asian – especially Malaysian – approaches to international relations and regionalism. He is described, sometimes critically, as adopting a post-modern approach.[2][3] Milner has been a strong advocate of Track II diplomacy – arguing that the globalising and democratising of international relations demands an enhanced role for non-government interaction.[4][5]

Milner is Co-Chair of the Australian Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. He has also played a leading role in the development of the 'Asialink Conversations', and in the establishment of an Australia-New Zealand dialogue with the influential network ASEAN-ISIS. He has been Research Chair of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and Editor of the Asian Studies Review of Asian Studies Association of Australia. While acknowledging the Howard Government's (1996–2008) practical achievements in Asia policy, Milner lamented its neglect of Asia education and the general 'narrowing of cultural horizons on the part of the Australian community'.[6][7] He expressed strong disappointment regarding the Asian diplomacy of the later Rudd Governments (2007–2010, 2013).

Milner has also been Member at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and has held visiting professorships at the National University of Singapore (Raffles Visiting Professor of History), Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Kyoto University, the National University of Malaysia and the University of Malaya. In 2014–2015 he was Tun Hussein Onn Chair of International Studies at the Malaysian Institute of Strategic and International Studies. In the 1990s, he was Director of the Australia-Asia Perceptions Project of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. He has been a member of the Australian Government's Foreign Affairs Council (1998–2008), a Panel Member on the Australian Research Council, and a member of the Founding Committees of the Government's Australia-Malaysia Institute and Australia-Thailand Institute.

Milner received his B.A from Monash University and PhD from Cornell University under John Legge and Oliver Wolters. He also worked with the leading international cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz.


Awarded Member of the Order of Australia in 2007 for "service to education in the field of Asian studies as an academic and author, and to international relations through the development of cross-cultural education and outreach activities".[8] He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in 1995 and made a National Life Member of the Australian Institute of International Affairs in 2007.

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