Man of Secrets: The Private Life of Donald McLean
At the Margin of Empire: John Webster and Hokianga, 1841–1900
Auckland University Press, $50.00,
Those of us interested in reading about the past are increasingly confronted with history as abstraction or abstruse argument. Dense theoretical postulations tend to trump reasoned accounts of events, and entangled academic prose can displace engaging narrative. Here, though, are two biographies which in quite different ways are both antidotes to the creeping sterility of some history-writing, and which provide important perspectives on New Zealand’s maturation as a nation-state during the 19th century.