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Issue Details: First known date: 2006... 2006 Australian Political Lives : Chronicling Political Careers and Administrative Histories
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'This monograph brings together some of the best practitioners of the art and craft of political biography in Australia. They are simultaneously some of our best scholars who, at least in part, have turned their attention to writing Australian political lives. They are not merely chroniclers of our times but multidisciplinary analysts constructing layers of explanation and theoretical insight. They include academic, professional and amateur biographers; scholars from a range of disciplines (politics, history, sociology, public administration, gender studies); and politicians who for a time strutted the political stage. The assembled papers explore the strengths and weaknesses of the biographical approach; the enjoyment it can deliver; the problems and frustrations of writing biographies; and the various ways the ‘project’ can be approached by those constructing these lives. They probe the art and craft of the political biographer.'(Publication summary)

Notes

  • Only biographies individually indexed. Other material in this issue includes:

    The Art of Australian Political Biography Geoffrey Bolton

    Political Biography: Its Contribution to Political Science Tracey Arklay

    Recording Non-Labor Politics Through Biography Judith Brett

    The ‘Life Myth’, ‘Short Lives’ and Dealing with Live Subjects in Political Biography James Walter

    Public Lives, Private Lives: the Fundamental Dilemma in Political Biography Nicholas Brown

    Expanding The Repertoire: Theory, Method and Language in Political Biography R. A. W. Rhodes

    Political Biographies and Administrative Memoirs: Some Concluding Comments Philip A. Selth

Contents

* Contents derived from the Canberra, Australian Capital Territory,:ANU E View , 2006 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
John Curtin : Taking His Childhood Seriously, David Day , single work criticism

'There are many different approaches to biography and political biography. If I had the skills and training of Judith Brett I may well have tried her psychological approach. But I did not and I was left to fall back on a largely narrative approach. This address is mainly about the writing of John Curtin: A life (Day 1999).' (Introduction)

(p. 51-54)
Ministers, Prime Ministers, Mandarins : Politics as a Job, Patrick Weller , single work criticism

'I am a political scientist. I seek to ask those political science questions at the core of any appreciation of how the political system works; especially the complexities and the different angles or perspectives. My first training, however, was in history. The combination of the two disciplines means that I have always been primarily interested in the way institutions work, the way power is exercised, the interactions between individuals and the institutions with which they work – institutions they often help shape and which in turn shapes them. I try to understand the capacity of people in a given timeframe and the opportunities provided by the institutions and events that confront them. Consequently I have written primarily about political practices and political processes, about the positions and office-holders in politics, the challenges they face and the frameworks that guide behaviour.' (Introduction)

(p. 55-60)
Biography and the Rehabilitation of the Subject : The Case of John Gorton, Ian Hancock , single work criticism

'When I was an undergraduate, some years ago, I read a comment on biography by Sir Lewis Namier, the magisterial historian of eighteenth century British politics. Namier thought that someone embarking on a biography was no better qualified for the task than a woman who applied for the position of minding children and said in support of her application that she herself had once been a child. No doubt with the advancement of so many academic disciplines and the multi-skilling of so many academics, Namier’s dismissal of biography is now out of date for most biographers. But not so in my case. When, therefore, I was commissioned to write a biography of Sir John Gorton (2002), a chapter on Sir Robert Askin (2006) and a long entry on Harold Holt in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (1996), I realised that my immediate problem was myself. Very simply, my qualifications, let alone my experience, did not equip me for the task.'  (Introduction)

(p. 61-64)
Aboriginality and Impersonality : Three Australian Indigenous Administrative Memoirs, Tim Rowse , single work criticism

'The Indigenous public servant is a relatively recent phenomenon — a product of the maturing of the programs of assimilation and the inception of the programs of self-determination. That the Indigenous administrative memoir is recent follows from this, but it is also relevant to point out that the genre Indigenous autobiography is itself not yet fifty years old. In this essay, I will tell you about three Indigenous autobiographies in which the authors (all male) have produced an account of themselves partly by reflecting on their times as a public servant. In each case, the theme ‘impersonality’ is prominent, but each time in a different way.'  (Introduction)

(p. 65-72)
Writing Political Biography, Rae Wear , single work autobiography

'Writing political biography almost always involves a degree of self-exploration: there is a little bit of autobiography lurking beneath the surface of every biography. To begin with, there is the choice of subject. Some biographers are drawn to personalities they admire while others tackle those they have little regard for but consider important or perhaps want to understand. Choosing a subject must involve reflection on the biographer’s part about the reasons for their choice and also about the nature of the feelings they bring to the task. This reflection is essential if a biography is to be other than hagiography or a hatchet job. In my own choice of subject, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, I was driven by a desire to understand the community in which I had lived most of my life and which had played a large part in my own political socialisation. Bjelke-Petersen was a man who had both shaped that community and been shaped by it. In growing up in provincial Queensland I had become acquainted with many of Bjelke-Petersen’s men and women who in many respects were kindly churchgoers, yet who would think nothing of rorting their tax or doing slippery business deals. They always puzzled me, as Bjelke-Petersen did — that combination of rectitude and shady dealings.' (Introduction)

(p. 73-76)
Jessie Street and the New Political Biography, Lenore Coltheart , single work criticism

'Writing political biography almost always involves a degree of self-exploration: there is a little bit of autobiography lurking beneath the surface of every biography. To begin with, there is the choice of subject. Some biographers are drawn to personalities they admire while others tackle those they have little regard for but consider important or perhaps want to understand. Choosing a subject must involve reflection on the biographer’s part about the reasons for their choice and also about the nature of the feelings they bring to the task. This reflection is essential if a biography is to be other than hagiography or a hatchet job. In my own choice of subject, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, I was driven by a desire to understand the community in which I had lived most of my life and which had played a large part in my own political socialisation. Bjelke-Petersen was a man who had both shaped that community and been shaped by it. In growing up in provincial Queensland I had become acquainted with many of Bjelke-Petersen’s men and women who in many respects were kindly churchgoers, yet who would think nothing of rorting their tax or doing slippery business deals. They always puzzled me, as Bjelke-Petersen did — that combination of rectitude and shady dealings.'  (Introduction)

(p. 77-80)
Conjuring Fascinating Stories : The Case of Sir Arthur Tange, Peter Edwards , single work criticism

'Shortly after Frank Crowley, then lecturing in history at the University of Western Australia, started his biography of John Forrest, he confronted his second-year students with a question: ‘It is said that every historian should tackle a biography at some stage in his life. What do you think?’ As I recall, the second-year students sat there with their mouths opening and closing silently like dyspeptic goldfish. One of them, however, for some reason remembered that remark. Thirty years later I recalled it when I was trying to work out what my next project should be, having just worked on the official history of Australia’s involvement in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam, as well as various other projects. I wanted to do something which built on that work but which was also different. I thought that tackling a biography would be of interest. It occurred to me that somebody really ought to do a biography of the public servant Arthur Tange, a person to whom many historians, myself included, had referred with a one-word summary, either ‘legendary’ or ‘formidable’.'  (Introduction)

(p. 81-86)
Anonymous in Life, Anonymous in Death : Memoirs and Biographies of Administrators, J. R. Nethercote , single work criticism

'This essay has two objectives: the first is to provide a tour d’horizon of biographies and autobiographies of administrators. Its second purpose is to comment on the utility of biography as a method of studying administration and its contribution to government.' (Introduction)

(p. 87-90)
The Personal Writings of Politicians, Neal Blewett , single work criticism

'Some years ago, in my essay ‘No Secret Selves?’, I attempted to develop a typology for the personal writings of politicians. I have since tried to refine that typology, though I still remain unhappy with the nomenclature. I would now suggest a fivefold typology as follows: (1) personalised policy essay; (2) political autobiography; (3) political memoir; (4) politician’s autobiography; and (5) political diary. As references in this workshop suggest that some of you have read that essay, I will spend little time on those categories that have remained unchanged and will concentrate on the refinements and more particularly on the category of the political diary.' (Introduction)

(p. 91-96)
Writing Political Autobiographies, John Button , single work criticism

'My own contribution to the ‘John Button ego poll genre’, as I call it, has always been unplanned and relates to circumstance. In my last two or three years in Parliament, after I had made it clear I had had enough of politics and wanted to leave, I had approaches, indeed pleadings, from seven publishers about writing my memoirs or autobiography. I did not want to do that. I wanted to finish what I was doing in Parliament and then think about all that at a later stage. I never contemplated writing an autobiographical book at all. What I did want to write was the book I, in fact, did write — Flying the Kite (1994), a different kind of book because the topic really interested me, about my experiences travelling as a politician and particularly as a minister.' (Introduction)

(p. 97-100)

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Last amended 19 Oct 2017 10:59:10
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