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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.

Sir Henry Parkes: The Australian Colossus. Hardcover, Fine Print Books

Which is why I welcome this very readable biography of Henry Parkes a. So it was a considerable surprise to discover that there was more than one young woman who took a fancy to him in his dotage: he had a mistress of long standing who was more than half his age and — aged 73 — Parkes married her very promptly as soon as his long-suffering wife Clarinda died. And gosh!

I lost track of all his children but the bio has a handy family tree to remind me that he fathered 17 children altogether, which is all the more remarkable considering his propensity for getting into debt. He was absolutely hopeless with money, starting one futile business after another, declaring himself bankrupt half-a-dozen times or so, and finally dying with nothing more than a burial plot to his name. Nov 22, Benjamin Farr rated it liked it Shelves: , australian-politics. Such an interesting powerhouse of Australian history but unfortunately this biography doesn't do justice to the work he did politically.

If you're looking for a 'meaty' political book, this isn't for you.

Sir Henry Parkes: Not just the father of federation

That said, it's an easy read and an interesting book nonetheless. Kate Guest rated it really liked it Jun 29, Ben rated it it was amazing May 01, Garret rated it liked it Mar 01, Terry Hogan rated it really liked it May 24, Kate DiGiuseppe rated it it was ok Apr 28, Kylie Butler rated it really liked it Nov 03, G R Morgan rated it really liked it Mar 29, Peter rated it liked it Jul 12, Emma rated it really liked it Jan 03, Ros marked it as to-read Nov 24, Charles marked it as to-read Dec 15, Melanie added it Dec 28, Cindy marked it as to-read Jan 06, Michael marked it as to-read Feb 23, Arash marked it as to-read Mar 07, Hank Willett marked it as to-read May 25, Abmay added it Sep 02, Craig Holmes marked it as to-read Mar 05, Greg marked it as to-read Apr 05, Cake marked it as to-read Nov 14, Jennifer K marked it as to-read Dec 29, Fivewincs marked it as to-read Sep 21, James marked it as to-read Sep 22, Joyce marked it as to-read Nov 13, Hugo Clark-ryan marked it as to-read Nov 14, Life Will Be the Death of Me:.

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Sir Henry Parkes - The Australian Colossus

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Snapshots: Federation

After he died, the London Times described him as 'a colonial colossus. 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. 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 year-old beauty. Clearly, Parkes loved women, and they loved him.

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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.

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