In the lead-up to the 1999 republic referendum, historian John Hirst published a short guide to Australian democracy and law. ‘This is not a textbook,’ he wrote in the preface; rather, he intended it to be a ‘painless introduction’ to the system of government that had formed in this country under the British monarchy. He did not hide his republican tendencies: ‘The book will still have served its purpose if readers quarrel with it.’
Almost twenty years later, with the failed referendum now a fading memory, historian Benjamin T. Jones has written a short, passionate book in a similar spirit. This Time: Australia’s republican past and future is not a textbook; nor a history of republicanism: rather, it is ‘one long argument’ about why an Australian should be Australia’s head of state. And although there is plenty to quarrel about within it, it will serve its purpose well if it ignites a national conversation about an Australian republic.