Ideas are at the heart of our politics. They are the means by which people are influenced and mobilised. Australian politics have been shaped by distinctive patterns of political thought from the colonial period to the Rudd government. But how have these patterns arisen? And what have been their effects on shaping what we think is politically possible or desirable? This book is not a survey of theory but an invigorating history of people trying to make sense of their world, fighting to establish the principles governing the way politics is pursued and justifying their own perspectives. What Were They Thinking? is a compelling story of winners and losers, of individuals interpreting and trying to influence their times, and of how ideas and power are linked.