Blog Archives

Posthumous vindication, David V Williams

After the Treaty: The Settler State, Race Relations and Power in Colonial New Zealand
Brad Patterson, Richard S Hill and Kathryn Patterson (eds)
Steele Roberts, $40.00,
ISBN 9780947493158

 

There was a time in New Zealand when university historians took umbrage if an historian employed in a government department ventured into territory that some academics felt was, or should be, their sole preserve. The panning by academics in 1968 of The Shadow of the Land, written by Ian Wards of the war history branch in the Department of Internal Affairs, was a striking example. Reflections on this study of British policy and racial conflict in New Zealand from 1832 to 1852 are central to this commemorative volume of essays exploring themes related to Wards’s interests in political, social, legal and military affairs in colonial New Zealand. An impressive gallery of historians, drawn from all sectors of the history profession, have contributed to the volume some fascinating chapters on a range of topics.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction and Review

Colliding pasts, Lydia Wevers

Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds
Anne Salmond
Auckland University Press, $65.00,
ISBN 9781869408657

 

The cover blurb suggests Tears of Rangi is Anne Salmond’s “most ambitious book to date”, and in many respects this is the case, since in it Salmond tackles vast epistemological and ontological questions to do with the nature of reality and knowledge. Part of the sequence of books beginning with Two Worlds in 1991, Tears of Rangi is a hefty tome (509 pages), but, like her previous books, it is compellingly readable. Salmond has the gift of narrative, and it probably helps that she is also a superb orator. She has given a number of presentations on the material covered in this book and draws large and appreciative audiences.

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Posted in History, Māori and Non-fiction

Grudging nationalist, Mark Williams

Charles Brasch: Journals 1945-1957
Peter Simpson (ed)
Otago University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9781927322284

I approached this book rather in the spirit of someone visiting a civic monument to a figure august and admired, but obscurely known. In the late 1980s, as one of the many editors of Landfall in that period, I spent time in the Caxton Press checking proofs, following a tradition of care established by Charles Brasch 40 years earlier. But the strong ghosts I recall in a building filled with reminders of eminence were those of Janet Frame, whose visits and material remnants still held occult power, and Robin Dudding, veiled in a scandalous story that I gathered had more than one way of telling. Brasch’s presence was fainter somehow, less detectable in the busy workings of the printing house that had hosted him and sacked his heir, Dudding.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Championing indigenous art histories, Stella Ramage

Colonial Gothic to Māori Renaissance: Essays in Memory of Jonathan Mane-Wheoki
Conal McCarthy and Mark Stocker (eds)
Victoria University Press, $80.00,
ISBN 9781776561094

The Gedenkschrift – essays by colleagues collected in posthumous commemoration of an esteemed academic – is an uncommon genre in Aotearoa New Zealand. Partly, this is due to its logistical demands: contributors must produce new work that chimes with the honouree’s research interests within a Goldilocks time-frame, when loss is fresh but not too raw. Museologist Conal McCarthy and curator Mark Stocker, with the help of a small army, have achieved this feat, launching a substantial book within three years of the death of renowned art historian, curator and public speaker, Jonathan Mane-Wheoki.

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Posted in Art, History, Māori, Non-fiction and Review

Getting the news out, James Norcliffe

Surviving 7.8: New Zealanders Respond to the Earthquakes of November 2016
Phil Pennington and Radio New Zealand
HarperCollins, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775541103

 

New Zealanders, Cantabrians in particular, have, over the last half-dozen years, become reluctant experts in earthquakes. We have experienced the wobbly ones, the shuddery ones, the bumpy ones, the noisy ones that just go whack – a whole hitherto unknown taxonomy of geomorphological effects. The Richter scale has become as familiar as the bathroom scales and referred to as often. One of our favourite websites is Geonet, and glib, hackneyed epithets like earth-shattering and world-shaking have taken on a whole new oh-so literal meaning.

Thus, when, just after midnight on November 14, 2016, we were woken by a long rolling shake that seemed to go on and on forever, my wife and I knew at once that we were experiencing another Big One, but we knew, too, that it wasn’t Christchurch this time; it was farther away. Our first thought was the Main Divide, our second thought was Wellington, and we were immediately concerned for friends and family in the capital.

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Posted in History, Media, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Changing times, David Grant

>The New Zealand Labour Party 1916–2016
Peter Franks and Jim McAloon
Victoria University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781776560745

Researching a history of conservative political parties in New Zealand would be relatively straight-forward. The Reform/National Parties have, from their early beginnings to the present day, varied little ideologically – from centrist, to centre-right, to right – leaving the “far-right” tag essentially to those on that fringe, such as the Democrats in the 1930s, and ACT in more recent years. The same cannot be said of the New Zealand Labour Party, which veered from doctrinaire socialism under its first leader Harry Holland to, at the other extreme, unabashed neo-liberalism under David Lange (but led essentially by Roger Douglas) in the mid-to-late 1980s.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

Revisiting the 1930s, Tony Simpson

The Broken Decade: Prosperity, Depression and Recovery in New Zealand 1928–1939
Malcolm McKinnon
Otago University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781927322260

In 1968, I left my home town of Christchurch and came to Wellington to work as a producer in radio in what was then the NZBC. I mostly spent the next three years writing and producing talks and historical radio documentaries. One thing that struck me as curious in retrospect was that, although I had spent six years at Canterbury University studying history (among other things), no-one had ever mentioned the 1930s Depression or WWII. It was only when I began talking to older New Zealanders that these two sets of events came into focus as the principal markers by which they measured the significance of their own lives. I therefore began collecting both written and oral recollections of the 1930s (mostly the latter); in 1974, these were published as The Sugarbag Years. I then waited for someone to follow my lead and publish a narrative history of the same events which placed the lives I had recorded in their economic and political context, but no-one did and so I did it myself, as The Slump in 1990. This second book made little impact, the world moved on, and those with personal experience of the 1930s have now almost all passed away.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

New Zealand’s bloodiest campaign, Steven Loveridge

New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign
Ian McGibbon
Bateman, $80.00,
ISBN 9781869539269

Efforts to explain and/or convey WWI’s Western Front have endured for a century. Libraries could be stocked with military histories investigating the operation of armies, the performance of commanders and the fortunes (often the misfortunes) of this critical centre of the war. Social and cultural studies contemplating subjects ranging from soldiers’ experiences, interpretations rendered in memoirs and monuments, and the wider legacies etched on belligerent societies, have flourished as avenues of inquiry. Popular cultural representations have likewise worked in establishing and transmitting a sense of the subject – the humour within Blackadder’s irreverent summation (“the mud, the noise, the endless … poetry”), for example, hinges on evoking accepted and shared touchstones with the audience.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Town and country, Simon Upton

The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920
Ben Schrader
Bridget Williams Books, $60.00,
ISBN 9780947492434

I live in a very large city – Paris. It is a melting-pot of anonymity, dynamic and dangerous. There are futuristic experiments in eco-design and saturated motorways; new season glitz on the cat-walks and terrorist attacks. The Bataclan attacks started just five minutes from my apartment. It is all very exciting. But I am not a city person.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Treaty flows, Alex Calder

Treaty of Waitangi: The Land is Our History: Indigeneity, Law, and the Settler State  Miranda Johnson Oxford University Press, $41.00, ISBN 9780190600020 Reconciliation, Representation and Indigeneity: “Biculturalism” in Aotearoa New Zealand   Peter Adds, Brigitte Bönish-Brednich, Richard S Hill, Graeme

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Posted in History, Māori, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review
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