Red Professor is an engrossing portrait of the life of anthropologist, communist and spy Fred Rose. Drawn from confidential files of ASIO and the Stasi, as well as the memories of those who knew him, the book traces Rose's humble beginnings in wartime Britain to Australia where Rose chose to pursue his passion for anthropology. Rose's fieldwork on remote Groote Eylandt forced a fundamental rethinking of how indigenous Australians should be understood and treated. His sympathy with the plight of Aborigines triggered and sustained Rose's second great passion, Communism.
In 1954, Rose was implicated as a Soviet spy in the Petrov Affair. Unable to distance himself from the sensational headlines and overwhelming suspicions, Rose and his family moved to East Germany where he lived out his final days under the employ of the Stasi.
The book was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in 2016.
Publisher: Wakefield Press
Sheila Fitzpatrick, Australian Book Review wrote:
As a result of thorough and relentless research, including access to ASIO files and the Stasi files of East Germany's notorious secret police, Peter Monteath and Valerie Munt have produced an engrossing biography of radical anthropologist and communist Fred Rose.
Red Professor traces Rose's life from his birth in South London during the Great Depression to his death in East Berlin shortly after the Wall came down. This biography is an extremely revealing portrait of much of the 20th century as seen through communist eyes. It also uncovers gripping details about a political and scientific activist from the time he joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1942, largely because of what he perceived as the gross abuse of Aboriginals.
Toby Boramon ,The Journal of Pacific History wrote:
The collapse of the GDR in 1989 appalled him, and he died in 1991, leaving what he saw as his magnum opus largely unpublished. How good an anthropologist he was remains unclear from this judicious and well-researched biography, but most other things the reader might want to know are in there.
John Moses, Honest History wrote:
Overall, this sweeping biography brings to life the global Cold War context, the paranoia on both sides and how this affected one man and his family, as well as anthropological studies of Aborigines. The biography flows excellently. The authors note that the breadth of the subjects they covered in their biography placed them, at times, outside their intellectual comfort zones. They are to be congratulated for weaving together many different subjects. We need more interdisciplinary books with such a broad, global focus, which would highlight the many ways in which the Pacific is interconnected with the rest of the world.
Nicole Moore, Australian Literary Studies wrote:
The authors, by their timely research, have placed in their debt not only the anthropological community but also all historians of contemporary Australia and those who remember the chilling time of the Cold War. One can only wish this considerable work the widest publication.
Nicolas Rothwell, The Australian wrote:
The authors bring to our attention the extraordinary and complex back story of this now little-remembered nbame, and restore to some contemporary clarity the political stakes at issue in mid-century contests over academic and other forms of cultural authority. In particular, this book reminds of the length and difficulty of the struggle for Land Rights and cultural autonomy for Indigenous communities, and sheds new light on the contests within and outside professional anthropology that played out in cold-ear configurations of Indigenous rights, across the political spectrum, and their influence on post-war culture.
Melinda Hinkson, Arena wrote:
Rose has been effectively written out of the intellectual history of Australia despite the emblematic nature of his fate. The anthropological establishment preserves practically no memory of his pioneering work on Groote Eylandt in the 1930s; the radical intelligentsia whose circles he once frequented have long since moved on from the concerns that shaped his life. There is a reason for this neglect, a single, all-dominating reason: the episode that lies at the heart of the subtle new biography of Rose by Flinders University history academics Valerie Munt and Peter Monteath.
Donald Denoon, Labour History wrote:
Red Professor provides a fascinating glimpse of the interpersonal workings of espionage, of the intimacy between informant and handler - in Rose's case a relationship more committed and more openly communicative than that between husband and wife.
Robert Tonkinson, Anthropological Forum wrote:
The book opens in 1976 at a dinner in East Berlin with Gough Whitlam and his entourage reminiscing with Fred and Edith about Australian politics, Aboriginal land rights - and their shared bete noir Sir John Kerr! After a delightful evening Fred reported their conversation in full, to his Stasi handlers. The authors ask, "What kind of man would do that?" By the end of this wonderfully researched account, we can answer that question and - almost - understand how Fred Rose became that man.
Christine Nicholls, The Conversation wrote:
The cover blurb quotes Humphrey McQueen describing this very well researched and referenced biography as "unputdownable"; indeed, it is an engrossing read.
Ulf Morgenstern, Das Historisch-Politische Buch wrote:
A vivid, comprehensively researched and engrossing study of a man whose objective to research Aboriginal life and culture thoroughly and sensitively was thwarted at every turn by authorities wedded to an "assimilationist" policy or who found his leftist politics repugnant or distasteful. As an academic working in Australian studies, this book spoke to me both professionally and personally.
Charles Gent, InDaily wrote:
...their book is a scholarly achievement of the first order, deserving of recognition on more than one continent.
Nic Klaassen, Flinders Ranges Research wrote:
Few people can have a CV to rival Fred Rose's: Cambridge University graduate, remote area meteorologist, anthropologist, alleged Soviet spy, eminent East German academic and Stasi informant.
Patricia Sumerling, Historical Society of South Australia newsletter wrote:
A remarkably informative and at the same time easy to read biography ... Everyone interested in recent world and Australian history should have a copy.
Maurie O'Connor, Food, Wine, Travel wrote:
I always like a good spy story and couldn't put this book down ... a tale well told with the evidence of weighty research.
Mary Ann Elliott, The Chronicle, Toowoomba wrote:
The level and depth of research undertaken by Monteath and Munt in this biography is astounding and their narrative is masterly and captivating. This is not a dry academic treatment of the subject but a very readable and entertaining story of a man of intelligence, character and a fair share of human failings.
Linda Guthrie, ReadPlus wrote:
A gripping and often chilling account of this chameleon-like man, set in a sweeping backdrop of the 20th century.
A real treat for those interested in more about those heady times during the Cold War and the Petrov Affair.