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Bob James, They Call Each Other Brother: secret societies and the strange slow death of mateship in Australia 1788-2010.

Bob James, They Call Each Other Brother: secret societies and the strange slow death of mateship in Australia 1788-2010, author, Newcastle, 2010, 238 pages; no ISBN.

Before the twentieth century brought us insurance and the welfare state, fraternal or friendly societies provided financial and social services to individuals, often according to their religious or political affiliations. Some friendly societies also served ceremonial and friendship purposes. Bob James has spent more than 20 years studying fraternal societies after first noticing the arcane symbols in May Day, Eight Hours and other 'trade union' banners; symbols such as the heart in the hand, the temple and columns, and the use of women as decoration. In this new work he links the activities of friendly societies (including freemasons and trade unions) to the Australian tradition of mateship. Along the way he considers topics such as sectarianism, social capital, and the role of the Australian Natives Association in promoting the federation of the Australian colonies. The book has copious footnotes and some fascinating illustrations of certificates as well as photographs and cartoons. There is a comprehensive index although it is somewhat frustrating that the table of contents does not include page numbers.

Anne-Maree Whitaker

Book Review Editor

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Author:Whitaker, Anne-Maree
Publication:Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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