Joseph Cook – Fact sheet 72

Joseph Cook (NAA: M3614, 8)

Prime Minister of Australia 1913–14

Joseph Cook entered the New South Wales Legislative Assembly as one of the first Labor members in the election of 1891. Feeling constrained by Labor's strict caucus rules, he left the party for George Reid's Free Trade group and the position of Postmaster-General in Reid's government. Like many senior New South Wales politicians of the time, Cook was elected to the first Commonwealth parliament after Federation in 1901. Here he retained his support for Reid. When Reid retired in 1908, Joseph Cook became leader of the Free Trade Party and, in 1909 with Alfred Deakin, formed the first Liberal government. Cook served as Minister for Defence in this government.

In 1913, Cook replaced Deakin as Leader of the Liberal Party opposition and in June of that year became the Prime Minister following the general election. Following a double dissolution instigated by Cook in 1914, the Liberal Party lost the election and Labor regained control of both houses of parliament.

When 'Billy' Hughes left the Labor Party in 1916, a Nationalist coalition government was formed with Cook as Deputy Prime Minister. He served as Minister for the Navy (1917–20) and Treasurer (1920). Cook represented Australia at the Imperial War Conference (1918) and Versailles Peace Conference (1919) and acted as Prime Minister for five months in 1921. He resigned from parliament in November 1921 to become High Commissioner in London.

Joseph Cook returned to Australia in 1927 at the conclusion of his term as High Commissioner. In 1928–29 he headed the Royal Commission into South Australia as affected by Federation. He died in Sydney in 1947.

Records relating to Joseph Cook held by the National Archives

The National Archives holds a collection of the personal records of Joseph Cook. It comprises photographs, publications and other papers accumulated by Joseph and Mary Cook while he was High Commissioner in London. The Archives also holds records that relate to Joseph Cook in his capacity as a member of parliament, minister, Prime Minister, High Commissioner and royal commissioner.

Research guide – Our First Six: Guide to the Archives of Australia's Prime Ministers

In the tables below, reference numbers are linked to the item or series in RecordSearch.

Personal records of Joseph Cook

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesPhotographs, correspondence, published material and invitations accumulated by Dame Mary Cook1875–1949M3606
SeriesUnidentified photographs and newspaper clippings accumulated by Sir Joseph Cook1900–47M3800
SeriesDiaries, appointment books and notebooks of Sir Joseph and Dame Mary Cook1901–40M3580
SeriesNewspaper articles and cartoons relating to Sir Joseph Cook1901–47M3612
SeriesDocuments relating to Sir Joseph Cook's tenure in parliament1909–22M3608
SeriesPhotographs of events involving Sir Joseph and Dame Mary Cook1909–38M3614
SeriesCorrespondence, official papers and newspaper cuttings contained in an indexed book1909–54M3635
SeriesAssorted letters, telegrams and cards to Sir Joseph Cook1910–40M3603
SeriesPapers, correspondence and photographs of Sir Joseph and Dame Mary Cook's children1911–57M3604
SeriesCertificates and booklets detailing honours bestowed on Sir Joseph and Mary Cook1911–76M3583
SeriesMemorabilia of Sir Joseph and Dame Mary Cook1912–49M3633
SeriesRecords relating to the deaths of Sir Joseph and Dame Mary Cook1912–50M3605
SeriesFramed photographs of the first Liberal Cabinet and the delegates to the League of Nations1913–22M3798
SeriesAssorted publications featuring either Joseph Cook, other dignitaries or world events1914–52M3795
SeriesInvitations, programs, seating plans and menus accumulated by Sir Joseph and Dame Mary Cook1918–40M3610
SeriesDocuments and photographs accumulated by Sir Joseph Cook as Australia's representative to the Imperial War Conference Peace Conference and the League of Nations1918–76M3609
SeriesPhotographs of the unveiling of the memorial to the Second Australian Division at Mont Saint Quentin, France1919–25M3632
SeriesDocuments, invitations, newspaper clippings, photographs and calling cards accumulated by Sir Joseph Cook as High Commissioner1919–43M3582
SeriesMounted studio photographs taken of Sir Joseph Cook1922M3796
SeriesPhotographs of christening and launch of the Seagull amphibian flying boat – Southampton1926M3613
SeriesReports of the Royal Commission into South Australia as affected by Federation1928–29M3634

Other records relating to Joseph Cook – In Canberra

Other records relating to Joseph Cook – In Sydney

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemThe Hon. Joseph Cook, MP, Postmaster-General1894C4019, 14
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019