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In the century and a half since Victoria was granted responsible government in 1856, 44 premiers have presided over the state and colony, from `Honest' William Haines to Steve Bracks. Here is their story. For the first time this book brings together a comprehensive collection of biographical and political portraits of the Victorian premiers written by leading Australian historians and political scientists. The result is a compelling journey through a turbulent, occasionally anarchic, political landscape. A cast of fascinating characters is brought to life-the mercurial Graham Berry, who in the 1870s threatened broken heads and flaming houses in his heroic struggle to tame the colony's intractably conservative upper house; the roguish Tommy Bent, the turn of the century `can do' premier whose development enthusiasms were unhindered by probities of office; the bohemian Tom Hollway, who conducted Victoria's affairs from his suite in the Windsor Hotel; the `accidental' leader Henry Bolte, who became Victoria's longest serving premier; and the larrikin metropolitan, Jeff Kennett, who turned the state into a neo-liberal laboratory in the 1990s. A tale of premiers, the book is also a narrative of politics in a state that has vied with New South Wales as Australia's most prosperous and powerful. It recounts many extraordinary episodes: the precocious development of democracy in a fledgling colony turned upside down by gold immigrants; the titanic bicameral struggles of the 1860s and 1870s that brought Victoria to the brink of insurrection; the bank crashes of the 1890s; the police strike of 1923; the great Labor split of the 1950s; the hanging of Ronald Ryan in 1967; the social democratic adventurism of the Labor decade of the 1980s brought to a shuddering halt by ather era of financial collapses; and the neo-liberal experimentalism of the Kennett government. This carefully researched and engagingly written book will leave the reader in doubt that politics in the `Garden State' has seldom been sedate and its premiers rarely predictable.