Casting a long shadow over New Zealand history, Richard John Seddon, Premier from 1893 to his untimely death in 1906, held a clear vision for the country he led. Pushing New Zealand in more egalitarian directions than ever before, he was both the builder and the maintenance man – if not the architect – of our country.
Challenging popular opinion of New Zealand's longest-serving Prime Minister as a ruthless pragmatist, cunning misogynist and Imperialistic jingoist, this landmark biography of Seddon presents an altogether more sympathetic, erudite appraisal.
Reconciling two generations of New Zealand scholarship, Richard Seddon: King of God's Own demonstrates that, while holding fast to common ideals, Seddon was successful by mastering the art of the possible. He knew instinctively what his electorate would tolerate and remained in step with public opinion. Despite contradictions in his attitudes towards other races, he fought to ensure privilege did not become entrenched in what he envisioned as a white man's utopia. In this perceptive new evaluation, political historian Tom Brooking explains Seddon's complex relationship with Maori and shows how he in fact held a progressively bi-cultural vision for the future of 'God's Own Country'.
Seddon was no saint. Somewhat autocratic and given to petty nepotism, he nevertheless remains the most dominant political leader in our country's history. Internationally, his high profile within the Empire helped put New Zealand on the map. Domestically, he sought a middle ground between free-market extremism and full-blown socialism. And more privately, Seddon was a devoted family man, his actions shaped much more by his supportive wife and assertive daughters than has previously been realised.