Doing Politics: Writing on Public Life by Judith Brett

In recent years, avid readers have been rewarded with collections of writings by Don Watson, David Marr and Robert Manne. Now, it’s Judith Brett’s turn, with this excellent collection that brings together some of her best written works, from journal and magazine articles to orations and book chapters.

As a political historian and biographer, Brett has spent her career seeking to give us a greater understanding of Australian political events and the decisions of our government and leaders. While Brett is easily recognised for her award-winning books on Alfred Deakin (The Enigmatic Mr Deakin) and Robert Menzies (Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People), this volume includes earlier, perhaps lesser-known works, which really speak to her approach and influences as a writer and political biographer. These chapters are great strengths of this volume, and for me, really anchor the book. They also add greater context to her essays on our six most recent Prime Ministers, brought together here in this volume, in addition to the initial oratory piece on Deakin and his leadership during the early years of the federation. Indeed, revisiting these prime-ministerial profiles makes for great (if not slightly sad) reading. Brett deftly investigates these men and woman (singular): their unique personalities and backgrounds are crucial to understanding them as political leaders.

As an historian, Brett engages with the public through her writing, bringing a necessary sense of urgency on current matters of climate change and the systematic dereliction of the humanities in the tertiary education sector. If you’re newly enfranchised, or have an existing interest in politics and history, or still can’t comprehend the exasperating events of this last decade, please read this vital work.


Julia Jackson is the assistant shop manager at Readings Carlton.

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Doing Politics: Writing on Public Life

Doing Politics: Writing on Public Life

Judith Brett

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