William Lane

William Lane

Name: William Lane

Epoch: Late 19th Century (the \'Long Nineteenth Century\')

Grouping Field: Applied Sociology, Politics and Reform

Location Grouping: Individual\'s Work Location

Map Coordinates: 27°27\'59.3\"S 153°01\'25.8\"E

Years At Location: 1889-1893

One Historical Setting: Mr. William Lane, Australian Labour Federation [TBA], Brisbane City (1890)

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William Lane was primary architect of the radical wing of Queensland Labor and the working class movement. Lane was largely responsible for the formation in 1889 of the Australian Labour Federation, an organization of Queensland unions which replaced the Trades and Labor Council in Brisbane. In 1890 he became first editor of the Worker. He was also the connection between labour thinking and the land settlement movement. In 1887 Lane, with Reginald Roe, Thomas Glassey and Gilbert Casey, formed a committee to propose a state-assisted village settlement scheme, which secured significant public support. As time passed, Lane formed the scheme, far more radically than anticipated, as the New Australia Co-operative Settlement Association. It would translate as the New Australia colony (two settlements, New Australia and Cosme) in Paraguay. The collapse of the colonising experiment led to Lane to become an embittered conservative in New Zealand.

Impact On Brisbane Society

William Lane adopted the social thought of Henry George and Edward Bellamy. The failed Paraguayan experiment was a real-world test of Lane’s and Bellamy’s Utopianism. Lane’s radicalism was its worse form, a puritanism which could not obtain the necessary compromise in radical thought with progressivist innovation. This problem was rooted in the bushman’s alleged radicalism; which was merely rhetorical references to the ‘purity of origins’, masking its ugly tribalism. Lane’s first novel was a racist polemic, entitled White or Yellow? A Story of the Race-War of A.D. 1908, which appeared in the Boomerang as a twelve-part serial by ‘The Sketcher’.

It was the tragedy of Lane and the early labour movement who were fighting for justice of political prisoners from the 1891 shearers’ strike. Much of that fight was continued into the twentieth century by William’s brother, Ernie Lane. Unfortunately, much of William’s puritanism, and militancy, to the point of tribalism, also continued within Queensland Labor.


Gavin Souter (1983). “Lane, William (1861–1917)”  Australian Dictionary of Biography, Retrieved 27 April 2007.(http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A090663b.htm);

Bruce, Peter John. The Journalistic Career of William Lane in the Mainstream Brisbane Press, 1885-1887, The University of Sydney, Department of History, 1999.

Bruce, Peter John. William Lane: Personality and Politics. The University of Adelaide, Department of History, B.A. Hons., 1970.

Evans, Raymond. A History of Queensland, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, Vic, 2007.

Fitzgerald, Ross; Megarrity, Lyndon; Symons, David. Made in Queensland : a New History, Special Q150 commemorative edition, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, Qld, 2009.

Johnston, W. (William) Ross. The Call of the Land: a History of Queensland to the Present Day, Jacaranda Wiley, Brisbane, 1982.

Mathews, John. The Influence of William Lane on the Queensland Labour Movement, 1885-1893, The University of Queensland, Department of History, B.A. Hons. Thesis, 1981.

Serle, Percival (1949). “Lane, William”,  Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 7 September 2009. (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks15/1500721h/0-dict-biogL.html#lane1).

Image Citation

William Lane. From Sydney Worker 1893