Note: This object includes derogatory slurs. Such words and sentiments are not condoned by Museums Victoria which considers them to be racist. Historical distance and context does not excuse or erase this fact.

Red-covered book 'The White Australia Question', written in Melbourne by Edward William Cole, and published by the Cole's Book Arcade in 1903. This is the fifth edition of this book. Cole presents four essays on the topics 'A White Australia Impossible', 'The Cause of Colour in Mankind', 'The Whole Human Race is Mixing' and 'The Negro', taking the then radical step of arguing that a White Australia Policy and the associated laws were undesirable and unchristian. The book ends with several pages of drawings and photographs of people organized by racial type, including 'Negros of Africa', Group of Kaffir Women', 'Group of Educated Kaffirs' and 'American Negros'.

Edward William Cole was a bookshop proprietor and reknowned visionary, who believed that education was the saviour of humankind and that all people were equal. He dreamed of a world with one government and one language, and of a time when war no longer occured.

Physical Description

Rectangular book consisting of approximately 132 thin paper pages, and several thicker glossy pages printed with illustrations, photographs and extensive text. The pages are bound between two thick boards covered in red cloth. On the front cover are printed details about the book's content.


This book is an important addition to the Museum's collection of material reflecting the ongoing debate on who should be allowed to migrate to Australia. It is also a significant addition to the collection related to an iconic Melbourne business Cole's Book Arcade (which closed in 1929), representing its publishing division.

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