Warren Denning’s Caucus Crisis (1937) is widely regarded as one of the earliest and most influential works of contemporary political history to be authored and published in Australia. This paper details how and why Caucus Crisis was written. It finds that Denning originally contextualised the travails of the Scullin government in an autobiographical history of Canberra in order to advocate for the ideals with which Canberra had been founded. It suggests that Denning’s treatment of the Scullin government and his diagnosis of its problems reflected a personal disappointment. It also suggests that Denning’s revisions, which largely excised these autobiographical elements, were motivated by a desire to depict the personalities as he had observed them first-hand, and thus produced a book indebted to dramatic tragedy, establishing a form prevalent in Australia today — where narrative drive is strong, characters loom large, and where action is tightly circumscribed.