James Walter

James Walter reviews 'John Curtin’s War: Volume I' by John Edwards

James Walter
22 March 2018

John Curtin may be our most extensively documented prime minister. He is the subject of many biographies (including one by the author of the volume reviewed here) and countless chapters an More

2017 Books of the Year

Australian Book Review
24 November 2017

To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wy More

James Walter reviews 'Incorrigible Optimist: A political memoir' by Gareth Evans

James Walter
25 October 2017

Gareth Evans is one of the more interesting figures from the Hawke–Keating governments, not alone as a high achiever in a talented team, nor in the tenacity that saw him remain so long i More

James Walter reviews 'Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader' by Troy Bramston

James Walter
22 February 2017

Paul Keating has been much written about; his trajectory is familiar. His is a story of leadership and the exercise of power, about a man who led from the front and – like Gough Whitlam – was willing to ‘crash through or crash’ when following his convictions. No prime minister since has displayed a similar propensity. Troy Bramston’s biography conforms to ... More

Stephen Mills reviews 'Settling the Office: The Australian Prime Ministership from Federation to Reconstruction' by Paul Strangio, Paul 't Hart, and James Walter

Stephen Mills
26 April 2016

In the early years after Federation, Australia's first prime minister, Edmund Barton, was accommodated on the top floor of the Victorian Parliament in Spring Street, in a converted garret. At the end of a parliamentary day, the convivial Barton would invite ministerial colleagues up to the flat where they would talk long into the night. Then, as one senator later re ... More

James Walter reviews 'Keating' by Kerry O'Brien

James Walter
17 December 2015

Paul Keating continues to fascinate. Influential commentators such as Paul Kelly and George Megalogenis now celebrate the golden age of policy reform in which he was central, while lamenting the policy desert of recent years. Still, it is not enough: Keating, the master storyteller, wants to control the narrative of his legacy. Yet he professes disdain for biography ... More

James Walter reviews 'The Menzies Era' by John Howard

James Walter
26 February 2015

John Howard has long been concerned with countering what he regards as the domination of Australian historical writing by the left. His project was initiated before he gained the prime ministership, most notably in his Menzies Lecture of 1996, in which he claimed that most of the distinctiveness and achievements of Australian politics were grounded in the liberal tr ... More

James Walter reviews Paul Kelly's 'Triumph and Demise'

James Walter
30 October 2014

Paul Kelly’s considerable research ability, enviable political knowledge, narrative skill, and indulgence in polemics all figure in his new book. The former qualities make it a must-read for the politically engaged; the latter is so pronounced that such readers may succumb to frustration and throw the book at the wall before reaching the valuable final chapter whe ... More

James Walter on the new biography of Margaret Thatcher

James Walter
30 October 2013

Our media treat leaders as personifying everything that matters, yet social scientists disdain leadership. Most of what we know about leaders comes from biographies. And biography, dominated by those wishing either to demonise, or to celebrate, their subject, is a craft monopolised by insiders, acolytes, and journalists. Regarding Margaret Thatcher, academics ... More