2019 Seymour Biography Lecture

The core challenge of political biography is to answer the question, ‘why politics?’ What inner needs did it fulfil, and what emotional and psychological resources were mustered for its accomplishment?

These questions are harder to answer for Alfred Deakin than for less complex political leaders. Deakin was a gifted orator and successful politician who was a father of federation and Australia’s most significant prime minister until the Second World War. Yet he was also a deeply private man with an intense intellectual and spiritual life who wondered often if politics was the right path for him.

The 2019 Seymour Biography Lecture will be delivered by Judith Brett, who will discuss the tensions and synergies between Deakin’s public and private lives.

Judith Brett is a political historian. Her publications include Robert Menzies' Forgotten People (1992) and Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class: From Alfred Deakin to John Howard (2003). In 2017 she published The Enigmatic Mr Deakin, to complete a trilogy of books on the history of Australian Liberals. The first full length study of Deakin in more than fifty years, it won the 2018 National Biography Award. In March this year she published From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia got compulsory voting.

The Seymour Biography Lecture is organised by the National Library of Australia and is supported by Dr John and Mrs Heather Seymour AO. Attendance is free.

Date & time

Thu 03 Oct 2019, 6pm


Theatre, National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes, ACT


Judith Brett


National Centre of Biography


02 6262 1111


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