A Flawed Saint: The Popular Image of William Gladstone in the Australian Colonies



Publication Details

Gorman, Z. (2018). A Flawed Saint: The Popular Image of William Gladstone in the Australian Colonies. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47 (4), 697-717.


This article looks at the popular image of William Gladstone which gradually emerged and evolved in the Australian Colonies throughout the nineteenth century. By using a wide variety of newspaper sources and political speeches, the piece shows how Gladstone was extensively discussed and interpreted on the far side of the 'British World'. It tracks the ups and downs of the turbulent relationship Gladstone had with the Australian Colonies over his long career, as he influenced Australian history both directly through the policies he implemented and indirectly as an inspiration for local politicians. It concludes that although Gladstone repeatedly aggravated Australian opinion both through his time at the Colonial Office and the 'soft' foreign policy he pursued as Prime Minister, his domestic popularity as a successful liberal and democratic figure was enough to make him a hero in colonial eyes. This conclusion shows how 'British World' popular sentiment was able to trump nominal local interests. This demonstrates not only the predominance of Britishness in Australian identity during this time period, but also how as a simultaneously separate yet intimately linked part of the Empire, Australians abstracted their own significance and meaning from domestic British politics.

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