Over fifty years have passed since I wrote my first tutorial essay in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE), or Modern Greats, as it was known in Oxford. The subject was the Great Reform Bill of 1832, which for the first time in over a century expanded the right to vote and redrew the electoral map of Great Britain. I had planned to read history, but when I told my history don that I was interested in the nineteenth century – Gladstone, Disraeli, and all that – he shook his head sadly. ‘Ah, my dear boy, that’s current affairs; history at Oxford ends in 1815; you’ll have to read PPE.’ Thus was my fate sealed and the Reform Bill the first subject in my Politics curriculum.
‘The whole Bill and nothing but the Bill’
Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832
by Antonia Fraser
Hachette Australia, $45 hb, 350 pp, 9780297864301
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Neal Blewett has had a varied career as academic, politician, and diplomat. A Tasmanian Rhodes scholar, he taught successively at the Universities of Oxford and Adelaide and became Professor of Political Theory and Institutions at Flinders University. He has written books and articles on British and Australian history and politics. As Health Minister in the Hawke government he was responsible for the introduction of Medicare and Australia’s Aids policy. His diary of the Keating government was published in 1999. From 1994 to 1998 he was Australian High Commissioner in London as well as a member of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. He now writes, gardens, and walks in the Blue Mountains.
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