2001 saw the publication of the three volumes of The People’s Choice. Electoral Politics in 20th Century New South Wales, edited by Michael Hogan and David Clune. Reviewers welcomed it as a fundamental and indispensable source for anyone interested in the political history of NSW and of Australia.
Now comes the fourth volume, which takes the story back into the colonial period from the coming of responsible government in 1856 to the formation of the Australian Federation in 1901. There are chapters on each of the elections for the Legislative Assembly, where the talents and failings of political giants like Henry Parkes, Charles Cowper, John Robertson, George Reid and Edmund Barton are on display.
Recurrent themes are attempts to resolve the land question, the creation of a strong system of public schooling, and problems of taxation so that the colony could fund its railways, roads and schools. Towards the end of the century the questions of federation and labour conditions come to occupy centre stage.
There is also a chapter on the virtually unchronicled elections of 1843, 1848 and 1851 for the Legislative Council which prepared the way for responsible government, as well as thematic chapters on the land question and ways that voting was conducted in a different era.
A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.