Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


This thesis is a public political biography of Sir Joseph Carruthers. It gives a thorough account of his career in the Legislative Assembly while emphasising his role in the development of New South Wales and Australian liberalism and the creation of the Australian party system. It explores the evolution of nineteenth century liberalism into a more modern form, tracing the roots of ideological beliefs and how these were pragmatically applied to changing circumstances. It argues that over the course of Carruthers’ career liberalism was adapted from a pervasive political culture into a partisan agenda and rhetorical philosophic stance which crystallised around anti-socialism. It suggests that Carruthers played a central role in this process both as an ambitious politician in the early years of party politics and then as a leader in the early post-federal era. The thesis argues that his involvement culminated in a deliberate attempt to impose clear ‘lines of cleavage’ on the political debate in order to help representative democracy function and that this helped to create Australia’s Liberal-Labor political divide. While exploring these themes the thesis also traces Carruthers’ role in the organisational developments of his time period, situating itself within a wider historiography on the development of the Australian party system that while extensive has tended to underestimate the impact of State figures.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.