This is a thesis on Queensland's economic history written by a historian, rather than an economist. I believe there is a demand for this type of economic history, a demand stemming principally from his fellow historians and students of Australian history generally, who have no formal training in economic theory.
To the present, writings on Australian economic history appear to have fallen into one of two categorics. On the one hand, there are the broad general studies which aim at description more than analysis. Works of this type include Coghlan, Shann, Fitzpatrick, and Shaw. On the other hand, more specialised work aimed at analysis rather than description seems to be what is being produced recently, these works include the writings of McCarty, Sinclair, Boehm, and N.G. Butlin. Between the two there are the writings of S.J. Butlin, R.M.Hartwell and Geoffrey Blainey. To the historian, this position is most satisfactory. Of course no economic historian can write without both describing and explaining, but the problem of emphasis is an important one. Shall he concentrate on description or analysis? When reduced to the problem of economic development in a particular state, this problem remains. That a genuine difference in approach does exist is apparent to those with only a casual knowledge of the literature.
I have decided to concentrate on describing the development of the Queensland economy between the years 1885 and 1895 rather than adopting the analytical type of approach that Butlin has in his latest work, "Investment in Australian Economic Development ", for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important, is simply that my interests lie more with the historian than the economist. There are also two other important reasons. Firstly, at the present stage of historical writing in Queensland, an attempt to develop a picture of the economy as a whole, if but during a brief period, was long overdue. Secondly, a more deep rooted feeling, is that the type of economic history produced by modern economic historians, whose principal interest frequently lies in the process of economic growth, may seriously obscure parts of the past that are of significance to the historian. This feeling, more than any other, urged me to question the definitive economic picture painted of a depression solely of the 'nineties.
So much for justification. A few other issues, however, should be mentioned. My argument that Australian, and Queensland political history is best understood, when it is realised that this was fundamentally a liberal, homogenous society agreed on its ends, will probably draw criticisms from both sides of the fence. ......................................................