Ian Tyrrell reviews 'Progressive New World: How settler colonialism and transpacific exchange shaped American reform' by Marilyn Lake

Ian Tyrrell reviews 'Progressive New World: How settler colonialism and transpacific exchange shaped American reform' by Marilyn Lake

Progressive New World: How settler colonialism and transpacific exchange shaped American reform

by Marilyn Lake

Harvard University Press (Footprint), $68 hb, 307 pp, 9780674975958

In 1902, Australian feminist and social reformer Vida Goldstein met Theodore Roosevelt in the White House during her North American lecture tour. Marilyn Lake retells the story of their encounter in her important new book. Seizing Goldstein’s hand in a vice-like grip, the president exclaimed: ‘delighted to meet you’. Australasian social and economic reforms attracted Roosevelt and other Americans. Lake’s focus is primarily, though not exclusively, on Australia, yet New Zealand was in some cases more socially ‘progressive’. Other antipodean visitors, including Catherine Spence, who lectured in Chicago on proportional representation, and jurist H.B. Higgins at Harvard, also received warm welcomes. Visits to and fro often produced long friendships, and the chain of letters is important in Lake’s impressive reconstruction of a trans-Pacific sensibility.

In Progressive New World, Lake argues that Australasia and the United States were engaged in a conversation of mutual, if sometimes qualified, admiration. Charles Pearson’s friendship with Harvard’s Charles Eliot Norton, Alfred Deakin’s with philosopher Josiah Royce, and New Zealander Edward Tregear’s epistolary debates with the labour economist Victor Selden Clark, are explored, among other affective connections. In this light, US historians will need to reassess the assumption that progressive reform was either an internal product or a result of transatlantic dialogues alone.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Ian Tyrrell

Ian Tyrrell

Ian Tyrrell is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of New South Wales. A specialist in American history, he most recently authored River Dreams: The people and landscape of the Cooks River (UNSW Press) and is writing American Exceptionalism: The idea that simply refuses to lie down and die.

Published in March 2019, no. 409

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.