Blog Archives

“New Zealand’s leading public historian”, Tom Brooking

Making History: A New Zealand Story
Jock Phillips
Auckland University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781869408992

Jock Phillips has written an engaging memoir of his challenge to his father’s Anglophile and Eurocentric view of history, and transition from an academic to a public historian. This crisply written account is of particular interest to someone whose career has overlapped with Phillips’s, but should appeal to anyone concerned about how New Zealand history can be made available to a wide audience in stimulating ways. Whoever reads about this journey will also quickly learn that New Zealand history is anything but dull.

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Posted in History, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Gloomy agreement, Tom Brooking

The New Zealand Project
Max Harris
Bridget Williams Books, $40.00,
ISBN 9780947492588

New Zealand: Paradise Squandered? Reflections on What We’ve Lost and Where We’re Heading
John Hawkes
John Hawkes, $40.00,
ISBN 9780473375553

Two New Zealanders at either end of their writing lives have set down their diagnosis on what is currently wrong with New Zealand and suggest some possible solutions that might be implemented to rid us of their rather lengthy list of ills.

Twenty-seven-year-old Max Harris is a law student and holder of a prestigious Examination Scholarship from All Souls College Oxford; John Hawkes is a retired rheumatologist who worked in the United Kingdom and France for several years and is now in his 80s. Despite the generational gap, they are pretty much agreed on what is wrong with New Zealand. 

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Posted in Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review, Sociology

Exploring the biographers, Tom Brooking

Frank Worsley: Shackleton’s Fearless Captain
John Thomson
Craig Potton, $50.00
ISBN 9781927213124

Dumont d’Urville: Explorer and Polymath
Edward Duyker
Otago University Press, $70.00
ISBN 9781877578700

Here we have two very different approaches to writing about the history of European exploration: one concentrating on heroism and adventure and the other adopting a more nuanced and academic approach. Both books succeed as excellent examples of almost completely different genres and will appeal to a broad readership, especially to anyone interested in the history of exploration of the Pacific and Antarctica. Both come highly recommended as ideal autumn reading.

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Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction, Review

Outstanding achievement or pitiful war? Janet Hunt

Making a New Land: Environmental Histories of New Zealand
Eric Pawson and Tom Brooking (eds)
Otago University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781877578526

Making a New Land: Environmental Histories of New Zealand is a revised, expanded and renamed edition of Environmental Histories of New Zealand (Oxford University Press, 2002). The new title is both more inviting and in keeping with an updated cover that clearly signals what is within: it is in attractive earthen tones and features William Sutton’s painting, Hills and Plains, Waikari 1956, in which the neatly segmented fields of the North Canterbury plains occupy the centre, framed at the top by tan-hued foothills and the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps and, at the bottom, by grey, featureless blocks of farm buildings. The dark shapes of macrocarpa windbreaks are conspicuous in the foreground and in the far distance. The view is devoid of indigenous vegetation, or animal or human life. It is a landscape that has been well and truly remade.

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Posted in History, Natural History, Review, Sociology

Larger than life, Simon Upton

Richard Seddon: King of God’s Own – The Life and Times of New Zealand’s Longest-serving Prime Minister
Tom Brooking
Penguin, $65.00
ISBN 9780143569671

I grew up in a very complacent country which didn’t really take its history seriously. New Zealand was the way it was (and it was the best of all worlds) and momentous history happened abroad. I recall the librarian at my secondary school pronouncing with lapidary finality that “New Zealand history is all out of date current affairs”. In the 1960s and 1970s, the evolution of the Cold War was much more exciting and, for the purposes of history teaching, the first two decades of the 20th century were devoted to the causes of WWI. New Zealand was a footnote.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction, Review

Scots collective and singular, Kirstine Moffat

Unpacking the Kists: The Scots in New Zealand
Brad Patterson, Tom Brooking and Jim McAloon
Otago University Press, $70.00,
ISBN 9780773541900

I have always enjoyed the inventiveness of collective nouns, favourites being an exaltation of larks and a worship of writers. If these are extended to national groupings, what springs to mind in relation to the Scots? In spite of my Scottish birth, I have to confess that my initial musings were decidedly stereotypical: a frugality of Scots; a dourness of Scots; a tartan of Scots; a presbytery of Scots. I am not alone. In the 1486 Book of St Albans, there is a reference to “a disworship of Scots”, while Google offers “a filth of Scots”. It is precisely these limited kinds of national stereotypes that Brad Patterson, Tom Brooking and Jim McAloon seek to challenge and complicate in their thoughtful, authoritative Unpacking the Kists: The Scots in New Zealand. Throughout, the authors argue that the history of Scots in New Zealand is one of complexity and diversity.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Minding the gap, Tom Brooking

People, People, People: A Brief History of New Zealand Stevan Eldred-Grigg David Bateman, $24.95, ISBN 9781869538132 In 1980 Stevan Eldred-Grigg wrote a provocative study of the great estate owners of the South Island which proved beyond any semblance of doubt

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Forgotten people, Tom Brooking

In/visible Sight: The Mixed-Descent Families of Southern New Zealand Angela Wanhalla Bridget Williams Books, $39.99, ISBN 9781877242434 Golden Prospects: Chinese on the West Coast of New Zealand Julia Bradshaw West Coast Historical and Mechanical Institute $54.95, ISBN 9780473155469 Doing Well

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Innocence, disruption, death, Tom Brooking

Aphrodite’s Island: The European Discovery of Tahiti Anne Salmond Viking, $65.00, ISBN 9780670073962 The publication of a new book by Anne Salmond is always an occasion worth celebrating and savouring. Aphrodite’s Island, about the European discovery of, and encounter with,

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Rough justice, Tom Brooking

The Newest Country in the World: A History of New Zealand in the Decade of the Treaty Paul Moon Penguin Books, $39.95, ISBN 978014300670 Paul Moon is one of the most prolific historians currently holding an academic position (Moon is

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review
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