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UNSW Press UNSW Press

Political Lives

Australian prime ministers and their biographers

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** Shortlisted, 2023 NSW Premier's History Awards, Australian History Prize **

** Longlisted, 2023 Mark & Evette Moran Nib Literary Award **

** Longlisted, The 2023 Australian Political Book of the Year Award **

** Longlisted, 2023 Walkley Book Awards **

Political Lives is an intimate history of image-making and image-breaking in national politics.

What was the story behind Bob Hawke’s famed biography? Why does Paul Keating think biographies of serving politicians are ‘like Polaroids of a busy life’ while John Howard considers them a big mistake? Where is the ‘missing’ Menzies biography? Why are our early prime ministers largely absent from historical memory? Chris Wallace writes Australian political history anew through this account of prime ministers, their biographies and their biographers. Lively and astute, the book takes us into their motivations and relationships, some well-known and some hidden, and in doing so shows us Australian politics in a fresh light.

‘For years there has been no shrewder or sharper commentator on Canberra politics than Chris Wallace. In this compelling, typically acute and unique study she contrives to illuminate all at once — and often as if for the first time — both the character of Australia’s prime ministers and the way Australian political history has been made.’ — Don Watson

‘Original, compelling and provocative. Every page offers fresh insights. Political Lives provides a genuinely new way of looking at Australian politics and political biography. Wallace has written a series of brilliant mini biographical essays on prime ministers and their biographers, exploring their backgrounds, relationships, motivations and political impact. The result is a biography of prime ministerial biography, the like of which we have not seen before.’ — Mark McKenna

‘Politicians’ log cabin stories have become such an important part of politics. But it has not always been so. Chris Wallace traces the intriguing role biography has played in framing our views of our leaders past and present, and examines how it has become such a potent force in the political contest.’ — Laura Tingle

‘Chris Wallace, scholar–journalist, has written this superb and fascinating analysis of political biography since Federation. Everyone interested in political history will love it. It concludes with a vital oath all her colleagues should observe: “First do no harm – unless it’s deserved and intentional”.’ — Kim Beazley

'We meet both the political players and, as intriguing, the writers who put words around them. It’s a fascinating prism, often revelatory, and a testament to the author’s capacity to pair very particular scholarship with delightfully enlivening storytelling.' — Jonathan Green, Sydney Morning Herald/The Age

'A genuinely fresh perspective on our nation's political history.' — Samuel Bernard, The Weekend Australian

'Wallace has certainly produced a deep and satisfying examination of Australian prime ministers and their biographers.' — Miriam Cosic, The Saturday Paper