Pursuing the Past. "Australia's Democracy: A Short History" by John Hirst and "The Citizens' Bargain: A Documentary History of Australian Views Since 1890" by James Walter and Margaret MacLeod (eds). [review]
John Hirst faced a challenging task when he set out to write "Australia's Democracy: A Short History". In a single monograph, he has traced the story of political rights and practices of citizenship, assessed within a context of social change. Not only does such writing place considerable demands on an historian's range, but any prominent historian who attempts a short history attracts the sharp attention of all stakeholders. Senior students of Australian democracy would do well to consult another recent book, "The Citizens' Bargain: A Documentary History of Australian Views Since 1890", edited by James Walter and Margaret MacLeod. They have brought together an admirable collection of documents focused on a broad definition of citizenship as incorporating civil liberties, political rights and economic entitlements. The editors concentrate on public debates rather than legal documents relating to citizenship since the 1890s, airing the contestations, the false hopes and the resistances that characterise our past.