The Governors of New South Wales 1788–2010
Federation Press, $55 hb, 688 pp
A couple of anniversaries explain the occasion of this collection: one hundred and fifty years of responsible government in New South Wales, and the bicentenary of Lachlan Macquarie’s arrival as the governor who, Brian Fletcher argues, has had the most ‘persistent hold over public consciousness’ in reflecting the ambiguities of a convict colony. The volume is framed by Rod Cavalier’s foreword, which encourages a sequential reading of these thirty-seven essays, each part-biographical study of a governor and part-analysis of the evolving office. Such a course, Cavalier suggests, will show the position to be no sinecure but a ‘constant’ in the flux of politics. Even so, as civics tests regularly show, it is a position in need of rehabilitation if it is to rise above being a misunderstood curiosity.