Review: People and Politics in Regional New South Wales
Histories of Australian towns and local areas abound, usually the work of enthusiastic local residents distributed through community based museum and historical society networks. Aimed at local audiences, these histories tend to be triumphalist, cataloguing ‘progress’ in terms of population changes and infrastructure growth. There is little in the way of explanation or analysis; local identities appear as a ‘cast of characters’ rather than as flesh and blood historical agents; politics is noticeably absent. For one state, the two volume People & Politics in Regional New South Wales, 1856 to 2006, addresses this political absence. Given the huge size of NSW, its geographic and demographic diversities, and the extensive period of history selected for study, the task is enormous. Beyond the ability or resources of a single author, the project has been tackled by fifteen professional historians with expertise and interest in the regions they write about, headed by, and including, veteran political and regional historian Jim Hagan. Their task was assisted by the contributions of two research assistants, and more than one hundred interviewees, librarians, archivists, and people with specialised local knowledge.