History: short reviews, Gavin McLean

Working the Kauri
Duncan Mackay,
Century Hutchinson, Auckland, 1991, $34.95

The Kauri bushmen, like the gold miners, are part of New Zealand folklore. Duncan Mackay’s new book joins a crowded shelf, all aimed squarely at the lay reader. Working the Kauri deserves attention for its treatment of the social history of the fields. Refreshingly, Mackay examines not just the technology of timber extraction, but also the hierarchies and customs of the bush, work patterns and the role of women in the camps. His use of photographs is exemplary. Taken from sparkling clear glass-plate negatives, many are printed full or double page, large enough to show every woodchip and drop of mud.


High Hopes in Hard Times
Kaaren Hiyama,
Media Studies Trust, Auckland, 1991

This book tells the story of one of Auckland’s less glamorous suburbs While many others have seen rises and falls in their socio-economic status, Grey Lynn remains lower income; indeed, today it is probably poorer than ever. After discussing early Maori use of the district Hiyama traces Grey Lynn’s development from semi-rural beginnings, through to the closer settlement made possible by cheap public transport services and the activities of the speculator. Her last chapter looks at a suburb that in 1990 was characterised by a high population density, low levels of home ownership, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Yet as she notes very briefly, there are signs of hope; the yuppies (especially the ‘Gay Lynn’ contingent) dismissed by many bring the promise of some urban renewal. The book has a few mistakes (Thomas Russell’s name is mis-spelled several times), and the absence of annotation and an index are highly regrettable. Otherwise the book is very good. Hiyama’s brave (and very commendable) use of a thematic approach enables her to achieve a great deal in just 100 pages. Photographs are sharp and the design snappy and modern.


Archives New Zealand 3
Archives Press,
Plimmerton, 1990, $30

Frank Roger’s latest subject directory covers medical and public health (dental, pharmacy, veterinary, etc) archives held by National Archives, approved repositories, museums, area health boards and practitioners’ societies. The 80-page booklet is arranged by province. After giving basic information on location, opening hours, phone and fax numbers for each repository, Rogers describes the extent and nature of its significant holdings. A detailed index ties everything together in what researchers will find a very useful publication.


Oral History in New Zealand Vol 3
National Oral History Association of New Zealand, Wellington, $12

The 48 pages of the 1990/91 annual journal of NOHANZ cover a variety of topics from historiographic issues to reports on specific repositories and projects. It is intellectually stimulating while remaining perfectly comprehensible to family historians or other self-taught practitioners. Annual membership, which includes the journal and a quarterly newsletter, is available from NOHANZ, P O Box 3819, Wellington.


Gavin McLean is a historian with the Historic Places Trust whose most recent work is Local History, published on 4 June 1992 by Bridget Williams Books.


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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology
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