The State and the People tells the story of the Australian colonies’ coming together into a single federation in the latter years of the 19th century. Author John Manning Ward, pre-eminent Australian interpreter of colonial relations with Great Britain, had a distinct view of Australian federation. His liberal-conservative approach differed sharply from the nationalist or modern progressivist approaches of other scholars.
Between the radical republican challenge and the cultural cringe, lies Ward’s Australia: essentially pro-British, pragmatic and animated by the ‘hope of capital’.
Ward’s federation reflects pragmatic forces and developments, the constitutional outcome having the common sense of a common law tradition at its core. Federation is not the representation of a nationalist assertion against the mother country, but rather the expression of a colonial nationality anchored within a tradition of British imperial history abroad.
Ward’s untimely death intervened in 1990 and The State and The People is incomplete. It comprises the substantial chapters then written. The editors, Professor Deryck Schreuder and Emeritus Professor Brian Fletcher, make clear that we have been deprived of quantity, not quality. Ward’s scholarship remains sharp, his prose elegant and his argument penetrating. The State and The People contributes significantly to our understanding of Federation and to continuing debate on the Australian constitution and identity.