shearers_war_cvrThe Shearers' War

by Stuart Svensen

ISBN 978-0-85905-434-8, (1989, 2008), 325pp, illustrated, 550grams

$45.00 + POST

The first exhaustively researched history of the legendary strike, and the definitive history of one of the most significant industrial disputes in Australian history. The book breaks new ground by disproving accepted myths, such as the commonly accepted view that pastoralists were motivated to take action because of falling wool prices.

The book also dispels the myth promoted by a minority of historians that union leaders in 1891 were hatching a plot to take over the colony of Queensland by armed force. Although 12 union leaders were imprisoned for conspiracy, the only semblance of a conspiracy is shown to be the united efforts of politicians and financiers to break the strength of a burgeoning and increasingly active union movement.

Read More

The significance of the strike to Australian politics is examined, and the origin of the legend of the Shearers' War explained.

This new edition improves upon the first while remaining true to the original. As with the original edition, the relevance of the strike to contemporary public policy is highlighted. These issues have been expanded upon in a new introduction, which outlines the major changes to industrial relations legislation since the writing of the first edition, and suggests parallels between the actions of Liberal governments in the 1890s and the 2000s, and the ultimate fates of those governments.

Stuart Svensen was born in Melbourne and educated in state schools in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. He has an honours degree in history and an MA in psychology from the University of Queensland, and a PhD in economics from the University of Wollongong. The Shearers' War, first published by the University of Queensland Press in 1989, was his first publication. He is also the author of The Sinews of War: Hard Cash and the 1890 Maritime Strike (UNSW Press, 1995).

Comments on the first edition

"Thorough with his research, has opened new paths of inquiry, writes in a readable style." Martin Sullivan, Labour History.

"The first major scholarly, blow by blow account of any of the big 1890's strikes ... makes many contributions to labour history." Charlie Fox, Journal of Industrial Relations.

"[A] first class author ... Innovative and stimulating". Ross Fitzgerald, The Australian.

"Diligently researched and lively." John Merritt, The Age.