Review Blog

Apr 08 2016

Red Professor: The Cold War life of Fred Rose by Peter Monteath and Valerie Munt

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2015. ISBN 9781743053720
(Age: 14+) Recommended. This book is written by historians based at Flinders University in South Australia. The work is extensively researched and leans heavily on the numerous primary sources that document the life of this relatively unknown player in Australia's history.
Fred Rose is a little like Forest Gump in that he seems to have popped up in a range of important times in history during his lifetime. The writing gives the reader the impression that Fred Rose is very impressed by his own importance. It may be this that lead Colonel Spry of ASIO to identify him as a Soviet spy who went by the code name 'Professor'.
Fred's life spans several continents and encompasses work as an anthropologist on Groote Eylandt, a meteorologist, an academic in Canberra and East Berlin, a champion of the rights of Australia's indigenous people and a father informing on his children to Stasi handlers. He is portrayed as a flawed human being who made interesting decisions that charted a life that has ultimately left more questions than answers. Would his life have been more positive and more productive had he made different decisions? Perhaps so.
The historical information is a real treat for those interested in more about those heady times during the Cold War and the Petrov Affair. Though brimming with historical facts (including diaries and archival material), this book is easy to read. The referencing style is cumbersome for those readers interested in identifying the source of information or quotations and this at times disrupts the reading.
This work is well suited as a resource for the Research Project and History students.
Linda Guthrie

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