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About the book
  • Published: 1 November 2013
  • ISBN: 9781742757995
  • Imprint: RHA eBooks Adult
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 432

Sir Henry Parkes: The Australian Colossus

Sir Henry Parkes: Father of Federation, Premier of NSW, Statesman, Visionary, Political Leader, Poet, Humanist

Sir Henry Parkes: Father of Federation, Premier of NSW, Statesman, Visionary, Political Leader, Poet, Humanist

May 27, 2015 brings the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Parkes. After he died, the London Times described him as 'a colonial colossus.'

Henry Parkes received little schooling and worked on a rope-walk, breaking stones, as an ivory and bone turner, ironmonger, labourer and on the wharves before trying business life and ultimately politics. He and his first wife travelled to Australia on an assisted passage. Parkes steadily educated himself, reading voraciously and widely, including all the great poets.

There has never been anyone else like Sir Henry Parkes in Australian public life. Not only was he the father of federation. His friends included Thomas Carlyle, fellow poet Lord Tennyson and British Prime Minister Gladstone. He convinced Florence Nightingale to send trained nurses to Australia. He conceived the international rabbit competition which led to the Pasteur affair and put Australia at the forefront of microbiology. He encouraged talented men to enter politics. Yet he shunned the limelight, rarely attending social functions.

Whenever he received begging letters, (which he did, daily), Parkes always wrote back enclosing money. No wonder he went bankrupt three times! Yet he was Premier of NSW 5 times, leaving its finances well in the black every time. He married three times, the last time to a 23-year-old beauty. Clearly, Parkes loved women, and they loved him. He encouraged women to attend political meetings, even though they didn't have the vote. NSW Parliament House dining room was managed by a husband and wife; when the husband died, Parliament wanted to fire his widow, but Parkes stood up for her, saying she was perfectly capable of managing the dining room on her own, which she did for years to come.

But not everyone loved Sir Henry; he had a long-running feud with poet Henry Lawson's mother after Parkes wouldn't give young Lawson the help she demanded and he constantly wrestled with political aspirants chasing his seat.

  • Pub date: 1 November 2013
  • ISBN: 9781742757995
  • Imprint: RHA eBooks Adult
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 432

About the Author

Stephen Dando-Collins

Stephen Dando-Collins is the author of the acclaimed Captain Bligh's Other Mutiny. Pasteur's Gambit was shortlisted for the science prize in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and won the Queensland Premier's Science Award. Crack Hardy, his most personal history, received wide acclaim. Mistaken Identity tells another episode of previously undiscovered Australian history. Sir Henry Parkes: The Australian Colossus is a biography of Australia’s Father of Federation. He also writes about American and ancient Greek history, and his series about the legions of ancient Rome has found considerable success in the US, UK and Australia and been translated into numerous foreign languages. Stephen has also written several books for children and young adults including the Caesar the War Dog series, Tank Boys and Chance in a Million. Stephen and his wife, Louise, live and write in a former nunnery in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

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Praise for Sir Henry Parkes: The Australian Colossus

“Great book. Great Man.”

Phillip Adams, Late Night Live

“A new biography by historian Stephen Dando-Collins traces Parkes's unlikely trajectory in a lucid and lively narrative that wears its extensive research lightly and introduces the reader to a Sydney town all but unrecogniseable today. Dando-Collins gives the reader solid but digestible slabs of the geography and culture Parkes found himself immersed in, and provides and evenhanded account of Parkes's achievements and failures (which were many). [an] excellent biography.”

Patricia Anderson, The Australian

“Stephen Dando-Collins has presented an absorbing biographical study of a unique statesman, the narrative enriched by superbly researched details of Australia’s growth and social development in the 19th Century.”

Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales

“As many school teachers know, the history of Australian Federation is a bit of a dry and dusty topic for students, and it takes a great deal of skill to make it palatable. Which is why I welcome this very readable biography of Henry Parkes a.k.a. 'The Father of Federation' because there are plenty of interesting titbits to liven up proceedings in the classroom. I hope schools invest in a copy of this biography. The author's style makes light work of a complex career, and it humanises the man as well. The biography is also enjoyable reading for teachers who just want a bit of extra background to liven up their lessons about Federation!”

Lisa Hill, ANZ Lit Lovers

“An important, long overdue warts and all biography of Australia's most formidable politician: uneducated, bankrupt and depressive, Henry Parkes nonetheless steered a fractious country to nationhood. championed womens' rights, established secular state education and set a standard for honest governance that his successors, particularly in New South Wales, have proved incapable of emulating.”

Geoffrey Robertson

“Thoroughly researched”

Noel Shaw, The Examiner, Launceston

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