Edward Gibbon Wakefield: A Political Reappraisal

Edward Gibbon Wakefield: A Political Reappraisal

Edward Gibbon Wakefield: A Political Reappraisal

Edward Gibbon Wakefield: A Political Reappraisal

Excerpt

Although there is no noticeable demand for a reassessment of the political ideas and activities of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, there is a definite need for one. In any case there is always the hope that a supply--perhaps this very study, brief though it be--may help stimulate some demand for more information about him. Seldom has one achieved so much in his day for which he is so little remembered today. There are many, too many, intellectuals including historians and political scientists (except in parts of the British Commonwealth) who have never even heard of Wakefield. Why? It is easier to recount his colonial exploits than to account for their comparative obscurity.

It will not suffice to point out that, as an erratic ex-convict in the prim Victorian period, he had to work behind the scenes while notables like Lord Durham recieved almost all the credit for his share of the hidden efforts. Nor that his principal work was done "down under" in Australia and New Zealand away from the mainstream of European developments, for his reforms also took root in Britain and Canada. Nor that insufficient biographical attention has been paid him, for the footnotes and bibliography of this study will amply show that this was not the case. Nor that his life was devoid of colorful, romantic, and even sensational events that would normally attract the curiosity of posterity, for they incurred the censure of his contemporaries and excluded him from a seat in Parliament. Nor can it be argued that his writings lacked circulation or influence. Wakefield simply slipped from the ken of all except specialists and Australasians.

It would be wise to stress for a moment the official disapprobation that may . . .

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