A Concentrated Act

by
November 1997, no. 196

To Constitute a Nation: A cultural history of Australia’s constitution by Helen Irving

CUP, $49.95 hb, 272 pp

A Concentrated Act

by
November 1997, no. 196

Remarkably to some, this cultural history of the drafting of the Australian constitution is an exciting and triumphant book. Helen Irving manages to fill in adroitly the blank pages of our constitution as a cultural artefact and to celebrate the complicated processes whereby Australia became a nation on the first day of the new century.

To actually write the framework for a nation by agreement indeed represents a concentrated act of the imagination. Moreover, it demonstrated, in the closing years of the nineteenth century, a profound optimism in this country’s future. As Irving rightly argues, the nation of Australia itself was the product not of external pressure or crisis, nor due to any religious or ethnic imperatives, but was created in a time of peace. This achievement, and the codification of our national powers and institutions, despite their obvious limitations, rightly deserves celebration.

Ross Fitzgerald reviews 'To Constitute a Nation' by Helen Irving

To Constitute a Nation: A cultural history of Australia’s constitution

by Helen Irving

CUP, $49.95 hb, 272 pp

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