Hocken Librarian, Sharon Dell, introduced the event, and was followed by Emeritus Professor Erik Olssen who formally launched the book. As Erik pointed out, there had not been a comprehensive biography since R.M. Burdon’s 1955 biography on New Zealand’s most successful Premier perhaps due to the the giant shadow that Seddon cast. Tom’s biography opens up considerable new perspectives and information on the man.
Tom Brooking then discussed the topic of his research, recounting Seddon’s many achievements and his ability to connect with Māori, with workers, and the general public. However he was also a man of his own times, and his imperialist jingoism and anti-Chinese sentiment would not meet with such popular acclaim today.
At 584 pages this is a substantial book, but also one destined to be a classic within New Zealand historiography.
Richard Seddon was a colossal figure in New Zealand politics up to his death in 1906. His Liberal Party was New Zealand’s first modern political party; his government introduced old age pensions and votes for women, as well as an industrial conciliation and arbitration system. Seddon was able, for much of his time as Prime Minister, to gain the support from a wide range of the political spectrum, at the same time that the rest of the world marvelled at the country’s “socialist” experiments.
It has been almost 60 years since an authoritative biography of Seddon has appeared, R.M. Burdon’s King Dick. Until now! CROCC member, Professor Tom Brooking’s latest book Richard Seddon: King of God’s Own has just been published by Penguin Books, and gives us fresh insights into “the Life and Times of New Zealand’s Longest-serving Prime Minister”. Congratulations, Tom.