A revelatory biography of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister.
Robert Menzies claimed the prime ministership in 1939 and led the nation during the early years of the war, but resigned two years later when he lost the confidence of his party. His political career seemed over, and yet he staged one of the great comebacks to forge a new political party, devise a new governing philosophy, and craft a winning electoral approach that as to make him Australia’s longest-serving prime minister.
The lessons Menzies learned — and the way he applied them — made him a model that every Liberal leader since has looked to for inspiration. But debate over Menzies’ life and legacy has never settled.
Who was Robert Menzies, what did he stand for, what did he achieve? Troy Bramston has not only researched the official record and published accounts, but has also interviewed members of Menzies’ family, and his former advisers and ministers. He has also been given exclusive access to family letters, as well as to a series of interviews that Menzies gave that have never been revealed before. They are a major historical find, in which Menzies talks about his life, reflects on political events and personalities, offers political lessons, and candidly assesses his successors.
Robert Menzies is the first biography in 20 years of the Liberal icon — and it contains important contemporary lessons for those who want to understand, and master, the art and science of politics.
‘Robert Menzies: The Art of Politics is always judicious and balanced, providing a multifaceted portrait of a key figure of Australian history. This is essential reading for students of politics and history, or anyone interested in the Liberal Party and its deep national influence.’
Chris Saliba, Book+Publishing
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‘Bramston’s success in Robert Menzies: The Art of Politics lies in his transcendence of “partisan ideology or mockery”. He offers not so much a conventional life portrait but, rather, a consideration of what Menzies called the “art of politics”. His interest is in how Menzies “practised politics” rather than the “enduring nature of his policies” ... His book is in some ways reflecting the contemporary yearning for a more substantial political leadership just as much as it is an attempt to get to the heart of what made Menzies tick.’
James Curran, Weekend Australian
‘We were all young at the time, even Menzies: but Troy Bramston has caught the flavour of an era he was barely old enough to see. Above all he has registered how Menzies, for all his faults of pomp, circumstance and fervent monarchism, did so much to create the Australia that has since established itself as the envy of the world. After WWII it was Menzies who made sure that a new generation got its education for free. As his reward, the new generation vilified him for the rest of his life. But that’s Australia: a rough diamond that flays you if you hold it tight but lights the way ahead like torch. This is a thrilling book about a thrilling man. He had his faults, but his virtues are the bedrock of our inheritance.’
‘Troy Bramston’s biography of Robert Menzies is a very welcome addition to the growing library on Australia’s longest-serving prime minister. As well as bringing new material into the public domain, he provides a most thoughtful and insightful appraisal of Menzies’ character and achievement.’
John Nethercote, Adjunct Professor at the Australian Catholic University and editor of Menzies: The Shaping of Modern Australia
‘If you read one book on Robert Menzies, make this the one. A refreshing look at Australia’s longest-serving PM. A surprising amount of new information for such a historical figure, and an enjoyable and compelling read to boot.’
Peter van Onselen, professor of politics at UWA and Griffith universities, political editor for Network Ten, and contributing editor to The Australian
‘Troy Bramston’s book on Robert Menzies was a good read. It contains an interesting series of reflections on Menzies’ relations with other public figures, especially across the political divide. He writes clearly and well. This work is carefully researched.’
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia 1996-2007 and author of The Menzies Era
‘Using unpublished material, Troy Bramston has added significantly to the many known parts of Sir Robert Menzies showing him to be more complex, reflective and intriguing than the versions adopted by the worshippers and the denigrators.’
Ian Hancock, Visitor, National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University and the author of two books on the Liberal Party and a biography of John Gorton
‘Bramston puts more flesh on his political bones, bringing to life a colourful and controversial man who could be charming, engaging, pompous, and even “progressive’’ in his views … This book is not defined by mere anecdotes (however intriguing) but by an examination of the Australian political and cultural life that shaped Menzies, who was born before Federation in 1894 in the tiny Victorian town of Jeparit. There is a wealth of insights about the forces moulding the young Menzies.’
Michael Madigan, Courier Mail
‘Bramston has constructed a portrait of the founder of the Liberal party that is at once carefully measured and insightfully nuanced.’
Stephen Loosley, The Spectator
‘There have been at least half a dozen previous biographies of Robert Menzies, but Troy Bramston’s new life of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister is arguably the most attractive combination of research and readability ... This book details his remarkable career and is a very welcome addition to Australian political biography.’
Michael Sexton, Australian Book Review
‘The Australian’s Troy Bramston writes political history with insight and style. His new book Robert Menzies: The art of politics is a shrewd analysis of a “Man of Canberra”.’
Graham Erbacher, Weekend Australian