New Zealand History

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The White Ships: New Zealand’s First World War Hospital Ships

November 17th, 2013

Seminar presented by historian Gavin McLean at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on 6 November 2013.

In 1915 the New Zealand government converted the liners Maheno and Marama into state-of-the art floating hospitals. Fitted out partly with funds raised by high profile public appeals, the ships had a busy war, eventually carrying 47,000 people. Painted distinctively in accordance with international requirements, they were the public face of our merchant marine's war, with the Maheno's crew making a direct civilian contribution to the Gallipoli campaign. Not everything went according to plan. There were tensions between the governor and ministers and shipboard disputes between army officers and mariners and between doctors and nurses. The political left also muttered about profiteering by the Union Steam Ship Company. Come along and hear the story of New Zealand's white ships.

Gavin McLean is a senior historian in the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. He is about to start on writing a book on New Zealand's First World War at sea.

The Great Strike of 1913: ‘Industrial War’ in ‘the Workers’ Paradise’

October 1st, 2013

Seminar presented by historian Peter Clayworth at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on 2 October 2013. 

The Great Strike of 1913 was one of the largest and most disruptive in New Zealand’s history. From October 1913 to January 1914 a strike wave swept across the country, involving about 14,000 workers, hundreds of police and thousands of special constables.

In this talk Peter Clayworth gives an overview of the strike, with a closer look at events in Wellington. He examines some of the questions the events of 1913 raise concerning the nature of New Zealand society on the eve of the Great War. Peter also briefly discusses events being organised to commemorate the strike centennial.

Peter works as a writer for Te Ara the encyclopedia of New Zealand. He has a PhD in history from the University of Otago. He is a committee member of the Labour History Project and is currently involved in organising a series of commemorative events for the centennial of the 1913 strike. He is also working on a biography of Red Fed leader Pat Hickey. Peter hails from a family of mechanics in Stoke, Nelson, and is descended from a long line of West Coasters.

Tramping in New Zealand, a History

September 5th, 2013

Seminar presented by historians Chris Maclean and Shaun Barnett at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on 4 September 2013.  Introduced by Jock Phillips

New Zealand offers some of finest tramping anywhere with some of the most striking scenery on the planet, arguably the best hut and track network in the world, a small population, no dangerous wild animals, poisonous snakes or toxic spiders, good access, 14 national parks, 19 forest parks, 10 conservation parks, and no entry fees. Around these attributes a uniquely New Zealand culture of tramping has developed, reflecting broader national characteristics. In this presentation we will talk about the history of tramping in New Zealand, and also about the process of researching and writing a book on the subject.

Shaun Barnett began tramping as a teenager in Hawke's Bay during the 1980s and has since tramped extensively around New Zealand and also overseas. In 1996, he became a full-time outdoors writer and photographer. He edited Wilderness magazine for three years, has authored several tramping guidebooks, and served on the Federated Mountain Clubs executive for nearly 10 years. Shaun's most recent book, Shelter from the Storm, The Story of New Zealand's Backcountry Huts, co-authored with Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint, is a finalist at this year's NZ Post Book Awards.

Chris Maclean graduated from Victoria University with a B.A. in History, and has since made a career out of writing historical books. His book Tararua, highlighted the history of a previously underrated mountain range, while his subsequent book Kapiti won a Montana Book Award in 2000. A keen tramper and sea kayaker, Chris has wide experience of the New Zealand outdoors, and his most recent book Stag Spooner, Wild Man from the Bush, is also a finalist at this year's NZ Post Book Awards.

The Red Cross Lens on New Zealand Social History

August 22nd, 2013

Seminar presented by historian Margaret Tennant at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on 3 July 2013.

While writing an institutional history requires attention to the framework of the organisation itself, its membership, leadership and changes over time, it invariably provides a lens into broader historical themes and how they are played out within particular local and national frameworks. In the case of the New Zealand Red Cross, we have the example of a transnational organisation which, in New Zealand, emerged within an imperial framework, but operated in minutely local contexts - it links with the history of high diplomacy and nation states, but equally embraces the iconographic wartime sock knitter, the home nursing class, neighbourly social caring and school-room pen pals.

The wide range of activities undertaken by the Red Cross during its history sheds light on such areas as disaster relief, children's voluntarism, the militarisation of charity, the business of fundraising, the policing of professional boundaries and the relationship between government and non-profit formations. Margaret's presentation will explore some of these themes while commenting on the tension between the requirements of a conventional, largely chronological institutional history and the desire to 'dig deeper' in pursuit of wider historical questions.

Margaret Tennant was formerly Professor of History at Massey University, and is currently working as a contract historian. Margaret is the author of The Fabric of Welfare. Voluntary Organisations, Government and Welfare in New Zealand 1840-2005, Children's Health, the Nation's Wealth, and numerous articles on women's history and the history of health and welfare in New Zealand, the most recent being 'Fun and Fundraising: the Selling of Charity in New Zealand's Past' (Social History, 2013).

Writing fiction as a non-fiction writer

July 9th, 2013

Seminar presented at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on 3 July 2013

Coast is a novel from David Young after some decades as a writer of non-fiction, particularly in the field of history and environment.

Exploring the effects of two world wars on three generations of men from the same family, Coast is also a meditation on the power of landscape. The east coast of Kincardineshire, Scotland and the North Island’s Rangitikei coastline where a Scots community endures even today, anchor this story in psychological, as well as physical, reality. Told from the standpoints of the three related key characters, the narrative unfolds a male social history spanning much of the twentieth century. It embraces issues of identity, belonging and connection to place. Kin and romantic love, matters of class, the Depression, active service abroad – first on the Western Front, then through the air war in the Pacific – and of family life, reach out beyond Pakeha concerns to the circularity of history and the tangata whenua.

The question of how much the writer brings to his fiction from his previous historical endeavours and from his own life is explored in this talk. The author’s history of conservation in New Zealand, Our Islands Our Selves, his Whanganui River book, Woven by Water, and even his first book, Faces of the River, played a part in the genesis of this work. So too did oral and documentary historical research.

Friendly Fire: What happens when allies quarrel

June 5th, 2013

Seminar delivered by Gerald Hensley at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 5 June 2013.

In 1984 the anti-nuclear policy of the newly elected Labour Government collided with the United States policy of nuclear deterrence. It led to the rebuff of a US naval visit and after two years in which tempers rose and diplomacy struggled with David Lange's free-wheeling press conferences, the standoff ended in New Zealand's suspension from the ANZUS alliance. In his talk Gerald Hensley, who was one of the participants, draws on interviews and classified files in New Zealand, the US, Australia and the United Kingdom to look at how this came about and how the clash of powerful personalities shifted the foundations of New Zealand's foreign policy.

Gerald Hensley was trained as an historian. He served as a diplomat for twenty years before becoming Head of the Prime Minister's Department under both Sir Robert Muldoon and David Lange, and subsequently Secretary of Defence.

The Present and the Future

October 31st, 2012

Part of the Public Service Act centenary series, this talk by Prof. Peter Hughes, School of Government was presented on 30 October 2012. The talk is introduced by Lewis Holden, CEO of Manatū Tanoga - the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

The Eighties – A Retrospective View

October 28th, 2012

Part of the Public Service Act centenary series, this talk by Prof. Jonathon Boston, Institute of Governance and Policy Studies was presented on 23 October 2012.

The “Old” Public Service

October 22nd, 2012

Talk by John R. Martin, IPANZ Fellow, presented on 16 October 2012.

Patronage and Scientific Rationalism: The Public Service Act 1912

October 22nd, 2012

Talk by Dr. John E. Martin, Parliamentary Historian on 8 October 2012.  This is the first in the IPANZ series of talks marking the centenary of the Public Service Act.

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