Victoria University of Wellington 1899 ~ 1999 A History
[three] — The Hunter years
The Hunter years
IN HIS FOREWORD to the silver jubilee issue of Spike, Robert Stout referred to his 1887 bill and its plan for the new university college in Wellington to take over the scientific departments of the government: ‘Had this scheme been carried out,’ he regretted, ‘we would have had a great college of science – the first in Australasia.’1 Those who attended a conversazione at the college one August Friday evening in 1928 could be forgiven for thinking this was a college of science. The library, it is true, was open to public view, but all of the displays and demonstrations were put on by the science departments. Visitors could view, for example, the dissection of cuttlefish and the circulation of blood in the web of a frog's foot; displays of singing flames in the physics room, or star polyhedra in the Mathematics Department; ‘experiments of domestic interest’ by the chemistry students, and tests for colour-blindness in the psychological laboratory.2
By contrast, at the college's 50th jubilee conversazione, held over two days in May 1949, all of the departments were on display. Alongside the experiments of the scientists there were publications by staff, and theses by students in the social sciences and humanities. The School of Political Science and Public Administration showed documentary films and a display on government in New Zealand; the History Department displayed source material, including documents and illustrations for the college's jubilee history; the geographers showed films on mountain building and the life of primitive peoples, and relief models, maps and aerial photographs. There were readings of classical literature and performances of music by Douglas Lilburn and David Farquhar of the Music Department. French and Russian plays – La farce des bossus, ‘a costume play with music, somewhat macabre, though amusing’, and ‘scenes from a famous Russian play’, Woe from Wit by A.S. Griboedov – were staged by the Department of Modern Languages.3
The college of 1949 was both bigger and broader. In 1928, 33 subjects were taught (almost half of them for law); now, 49 were. The expansion of the teaching page 51 staff had been greater still, from 32 to 78 – although was not so spectacular as that of the student roll, which had risen by a factor of three and three-quarters. Some new, young teachers took the place of retiring, vintage ones. Mackenzie retired in 1936; Adamson in 1939; Kirk, his eyesight failing, in 1944; Brown, the last of the foundation professors, at the end of 1945. But funding was the more important factor. There were substantial increases in the college's grant in the mid–1930s, as the depression lifted and a Labour government strongly committed to state education came to power, and in the late 1940s in response to a postwar surge in university enrolments. Student numbers fell during the depression, and again in the early years of the war, but then rose dramatically (indeed alarmingly), from a wartime low of 750 in 1942 to nearly 2400 in 1948. University administration, too, was entering a new era, as increasing co-operation between the colleges culminated in the establishment by the Senate in 1948 of a university grants committee to represent their claims to the government.
By 1949 Victoria had secured two bona fide special schools – a School of Political Science and Public Administration, and a School of Social Science – and recognition of the ‘special’ status of its law faculty which, at the end of the 1940s, was revitalised by a notably impressive group of teachers. Its Department of History had risen from being the poor relation of commerce and by reputation ‘the softest option in the Arts course’ (‘History for B.A.,’ it was remarked in Spike in 1934, ‘is only one remove from light reading and History for Honours … the safest and easiest method of securing an M.A.’),4 to become unarguably the strongest history department in the university and one of the strongest departments, intellectually, at Victoria. In its academic development the college would seem to be fulfilling Stout's original vision: of one that would specialise in law, political science and history. These developments were, however, less the fruit of a well-followed plan than an expression of the prevailing intellectual and political climate of the time. The depression, and the spectacle of poverty amidst plenty, the impending collapse – it seemed – of capitalism, the rise of fascism and the inevitable slide into war shifted many intellectuals' sympathies to the left in the 1930s. This was the decade of the Fellow Traveller and the Popular Front, of documentary film, the proletarian novel, social realism and socialist realism, of the Left Book Club and Mass Observation (even at Victoria, where a Group Observation Fellowship flourished briefly). ‘Surely,’ observed Hunter in 1934, ‘the university should play a leading part in solving this problem [of “poverty in an age of plenty”] as it did in the spheres of physics and biology last century.’5 It was, he saw, the age of social science.
In the time-honoured tradition, a deputation went to the minister. The committee had weighed up the options of instituting a further ‘drastic cut’ in salaries (already reduced by 10%) or taking the ‘retrograde … and thoroughly undesirable’ step of abolishing one or more departments: geology was singled out, being conspicuously the smallest (never mind that its professor was probably the college's most prolific producer of published research).7 The minister offered an emergency grant of £760 and to raise the college's total grant to £9685 the following year, on condition that the Department of Geology was disestablished. The Council agreed, and Cotton was advised in March 1934 that his contract was to be terminated at the end of the year. The professors protested, and there was page 53 some doubt about the Council's legal position. Cotton kept his job, however, only by offering to take a substantial cut in salary: he was reappointed for three years at £500, £400 below the full professorial rate. He had argued on the grounds of the ‘very high cultural, academic, and even aesthetic value’ and ‘growing prestige’ of his subject, and pointed out that attendances had fallen by about half when the class fee was raised some years previously during his absence abroad. But one imagines it was the financial sacrifice that made the difference. Although he kept his chair, his salary was not fully reinstated until 1941.8
These years were clouded by struggles over academic freedom as well as over money (and academic status). In the politically charged atmosphere of the 1930s, it was inevitable that there would be tension between young, radically minded (or morally adventurous) students and older, more cautious, often conservative university authorities. This was particularly the case at Victoria, which in these years cemented a reputation as having the most radical student body. Conflict between university staff, their governing councils, and a political and public mood of nervous conservatism was most marked in Auckland, in what that university's historian has referred to as ‘the Anschutz affair’ and ‘the Beaglehole affair’. When the Auckland lecturer in philosophy, R.P. Anschutz, contributed a foreword to a book by a Communist Party member in which he praised the achievements of the Soviet Union, and signed it with his name and university position, the minister of education wrote to the college registrar, wondering whether a person holding such views should be employed by a state-funded institution. This unsubtle attempt at political interference in the affairs of the university prompted the Association of University Teachers to ask the governing body of each college to endorse a statement on academic freedom.9 Victoria's Council resolved (although not unanimously) that it ‘strongly upholds the principle of academic freedom of discussion as understood in Great Britain’. (A longer motion which elaborated on what academic freedom might be understood to mean was lost.)10 Auckland and Canterbury colleges passed similarly brief resolutions.
The second of these affairs affected Victoria more particularly. J.C. Beaglehole (former student, ode-writer and assistant lecturer), having returned to New Zealand from postgraduate study in Britain, held a one-year temporary lectureship in history at Auckland in 1932. In September his appointment was terminated – ostensibly for economic reasons, but it was widely, and not unjustifiably, believed to have been because of his political views. Not only had he studied in London with Harold Laski; he had also written and signed a letter for publication in the press entitled ‘Communism and hysterics’. This occasioned the infamous Fowlds memorandum, in which the Auckland college president reminded his staff of their responsibilities in the exercise of academic freedom, which might, he said, be ‘intimately related to the question of fitness for tenure’.11 Beaglehole, who formally protested against the implication of this statement, was not shortlisted for the history chair the following year.
Auckland's loss was to be Victoria's gain, but only after Victoria had experienced its own ‘Beaglehole affair’. When F.P. Wilson fell ill in March 1933, Beaglehole page 54 was appointed a temporary lecturer in the History Department on a monthly basis; the following year, when the professor submitted his resignation, he applied for the chair. The selection committee placed his name first ahead of F.L.W. Wood, of the University of Sydney and Balliol, and a British candidate. The Council, however, took the unprecedented step of disregarding its committee's recommendation, and appointed the Australian. Politics had intervened (‘direct ministerial interference’ has been alleged).12 Opposition Labour members raised the matter in Parliament; but while the finance minister would agree that ‘Dr. Beaglehole is very able and a very excellent lecturer on history’, the government would not become involved.13 This story has a happier ending, however. The thrice-spurned Beaglehole (for he had applied unsuccessfully for the Auckland chair in 1929) was a year later appointed the department's first lecturer, ahead of 24 other candidates.
The commissioning of portraits of the foundation professors in 1934 – although not all of them had yet gone – signals, perhaps, a discernible change in the academic culture of the college in this decade: a new wave, if not a sea change. Brown, Mackenzie and Easterfield, painted by Archibald Nicoll and purchased by subscription, and a copy of an oil of Maclaurin, presented by MIT, were unveiled at a function in the library on 5 May 1934 at which another ode was read (followed by luncheon at the Royal Oak Hotel). A Christopher Perkins portrait of von Zedlitz, the gift of an anonymous donor, joined them the following year. Already hanging there was a portrait of Robert Stout, who had died in 1930.14
Ian Gordon, professor of English, 1954. Dominion collection, ATL F145904 1/2
Mackenzie, the penultimate of the founding professors, farewelled his students at the end of 1936 – having been presented with ‘a beautiful and valuable study chair’ – with a speech which looked sanguinely on the prospect of the ‘old educational regime which is now very much discredited’ giving way to ‘the modernist and futurist trends in educational development’.17 He was replaced by another Scot (although it is more noteworthy that the dominance of the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews on the early professorial staff was now being diminished). Ian Gordon, 28 when appointed, was to hold the chair of English for precisely as long as his predecessor, 37 years (during which he lost neither his Scottish accent nor his canniness). He had got it ‘by accident’, in his own account: as a temporary lecturer at Edinburgh determined on an academic career, he applied page 56 in the expectation that an interview for a colonial chair would facilitate his professional advancement in Britain.18 His accidental career was as marked by its diversity as by its longevity, and by a high public profile. His degrees were in English and classics, underpinning an early interest in comparative philology, and he was to become well known outside the university through his long-running New Zealand Listener column on that perennially popular subject, the use and misuse of the English language. Like Hunter (whose job he would have liked) he made a notable contribution to university administration, becoming vice-chancellor of the University of New Zealand, and was a long-serving chairman of the advisory committee of the State Literary Fund. His own literary period was the eighteenth century (although not exclusively), for which he made productive use of the rich resources of the Alexander Turnbull Library. (There too he acted as unofficial adviser to the librarian on English literature acquisitions and, as a founding member of the Friends of the Turnbull, began a close involvement of members of Victoria's English Department in the library's affairs.)19 But he also published an important early study of Katherine Mansfield.
Also new at the beginning of 1937 was a lecturer in Hunter's department, Ernest Beaglehole, younger brother of the historian. The precipitate departure of I.L.G. Sutherland, Hunter's assistant and then lecturer for 13 years, for the chair of philosophy at Canterbury had caused the Council, on Hunter's suggestion, to abandon the usual appointment procedure and choose a replacement from the unsuccessful applicants for the Canterbury chair. (It was usual to advertise in the United Kingdom, where candidates were screened by the Universities' Bureau, and in Australasia, and occasionally America.) Sutherland had been one of Hunter's students, and had turned his training in social psychology to a life-long study of the Maori. Beaglehole had been his student in turn, then studied and researched at the London School of Economics, for three years at Yale, and at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii with Peter Buck. He returned now to become in the 1940s and 1950s the leading social anthropologist in New Zealand, and to succeed Hunter in the Victoria chair. The sometimes controversial work of Ernest and his wife Pearl Beaglehole on contemporary Maori eclipsed that of his former teacher, whose career at Canterbury was clouded by disappointment and frustration.20
The scholar–librarian: Harold Miller
It was in the same year, 1938, that Victoria became the first college to appoint a student representative to its Council, a reform for which the Council had voted in 1936 by seven votes to four. Nor was this a precipitate move. The Reichel–Tate report had recommended it 10 years earlier, and the Senate, surprisingly, had agreed – but only at the persuasion of the then president of Victoria's Students' Association, R.M. Campbell. R.S.V. Simpson, a recent law graduate (and a later chancellor), was the Council's first student representative.24
The hanging of professorial portraits was not the most important event for the college library in the 1930s. In this decade it was transformed, largely through the beneficence of the Carnegie Corporation of New York which was making a substantial investment in New Zealand libraries and education, with monetary grants and travelling fellowships; and through a new librarian. At the end of 1927 Horace Ward, now frail and ailing (he had to be helped from the college to his home across Kelburn Parade on windy days), retired, and soon after died, and the Council paid tribute to his ‘long and faithful’ service.25 The new librarian, Harold Miller, was young and ambitious. A college graduate and Rhodes scholar, he was page 59 to be a scholar–librarian rather than a custodian of forbidden treasures: he wrote two books on New Zealand history, and was a determined controversialist and an energetic High Anglican. When in 1931 the Carnegie Corporation made available to each university college a grant of $5000 a year for up to five years for its library, Victoria was the first to take advantage of the offer. Miller went to study library science at the University of Michigan in the second half of 1932. Before he left he secured the Council's agreement to his appointment as a lecturer in history as well on his return.26 The position of librarian attained the status and salary of a lecturer when the library was reorganised, in accordance with Carnegie recommendations, on the lines of a teaching department, with the librarian having full administrative responsibility in his domain.
‘We have begun well,’ Miller wrote in 1934; ‘is there any reason why we should not go on to become the Bodleian or the Yale of New Zealand?’27 The Carnegie money was restricted to undergraduate books in the arts and sciences, but it did enable him to go some way towards the ideal (an American one as much as his own) of making the library the intellectual and cultural heart of the university: to purchase books not only directly related to courses of study but also in wider fields, ‘important books, costly though they might be and little used’.28 The college's cultural resources were also enriched by two more Carnegie gifts: an art collection in 1934, comprising 230 volumes and some 2200 pictures, and a few years later ‘an excellent electric gramophone and loud-speaker, together with upwards of a thousand carefully selected records, covering a very catholic range’.29
The expanding library seriously exacerbated the college's endemic accommodation problems. Soon there were three new reading rooms and new shelving for 10,000 volumes; a new stackroom was provided in 1941. An art room too was needed – where, Spike observed, ‘free from restraint we can follow some of the strivings of man for self-expression from the beginnings of time’ – and a music room.30 Between 1927 and 1947 annual expenditure on the library increased from £600 to £3300, its staff from two to 10, and the number of borrowers from 400 to 1500.
Growth is only the most obvious theme of this period. Another is the college and the state – a relationship that was strengthened not only through more generous funding. In 1938 the Council approved the appointment of its history lecturer, J.C. Beaglehole, by the Department of Internal Affairs as research adviser to the Alexander Turnbull Library (so long as it would not interfere with his college duties). In fact Beaglehole had little to do with the Turnbull Library in this official capacity, but he became deeply involved in the historical publishing enterprise directed by Internal Affairs' enlightened under-secretary, J.W. Heenan (a graduate of Victoria, and a Queen's scholar), to celebrate the nation's first century in 1940. In his work as typographical adviser for the centennial historical surveys, Beaglehole expanded an influential secondary career in book design which also encompassed his work for the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, the short-lived page 60 Progressive Publishing Society (in which his colleague Ian Gordon was also involved) and, after the war, the University of New Zealand Press. There began, too, a 10-year collaboration between the historian and the under-secretary as Beaglehole became unofficial adviser to Heenan's larger schemes to expand state patronage of scholarship and the arts.
The centennial enterprise involved the large part of the country's fledgling academic history profession – all four history professors were among the 12 historian members of the Centennial Historical Committee – but it forged a particularly close link between the Internal Affairs Department and Victoria's History Department. Beaglehole became head of the Historical Branch which grew from the rump of the Centennial Branch, and a number of Victoria's brightest history graduates found jobs there and with its companion War History Branch. It was a mini ‘golden age’ of state employment of history graduates to do history that would not be repeated until the 1980s. Fred Wood wrote a volume of the centennial historical surveys, as did Beaglehole, in his specialist field of external relations, along with one for the monumental war history series. The centennial marks a significant moment in the shifting locus of historical scholarship – from the field of the amateur journalist–historian to the discipline of the professional academic historian – which is part of a larger institutionalisation of scholarship and the arts in this period.31
The establishment of Victoria's School of Political Science and Public Administration was quintessentially a 1930s development: an expression of a prevailing liberal–left belief in the power of an educated democracy, and a response to the demands of a rapidly expanding public service. Beaglehole put the case in both idealistic and pragmatic terms in a 1938 pamphlet which described what would be at once a school of political studies and a ‘staff college’ for public servants: ‘a combination, as it were, of the Oxford Modern Greats with the London School of Economics and the Australian Institute of Political Science’. ‘The task of the university is not to treat the tricks of the trade,’ he argued (referring to a perpetual theme in university discourse, especially where professional schools were concerned, of vocational training versus humanistic education). It was to help create ‘a real political culture’ in New Zealand, and to produce public servants who knew their Milton and Shakespeare as well as their public service manual.32 Such was the ideal. The school had its origins in a more modest proposal for lectures on public administration, put to the college in 1934 by a newly formed Public Administration Society, and an approach to the minister for funding for a chair, which he declined on economic grounds. The proposal was revived in 1936 by a new organisation, the New Zealand Institute of Public Administration, which consulted Auckland, Victoria and Canterbury colleges about the introduction of a postgraduate qualification, and chose Victoria. Funding was forthcoming from a more receptive Labour administration in financially easier times, and a chair in political science was approved by the university Senate in 1938.
From 12 applicants, the chosen one was Leslie Lipson, an Oxford graduate now at the University of Chicago whose department of political science was page 61 considered the best in this new, predominantly American field.33 An advisory committee was established, comprising members of the Public Service Commission, the Institute and the college. Eight public servants, selected by the Public Service Commission and the professor, started the Diploma in Public Administration, a two-year full-time postgraduate course, in 1940. Both Lipson, just 26 when he was appointed, and the lecturer who joined him in 1939, R.S. Parker from the University of Sydney, were uncomfortably aware that they were younger than the men they were teaching. (Parker, although coming only from Sydney, was also disconcerted by the college's small-town habitation: we ‘could scarcely repress our dismay at the archaic look of the place: two-storey buildings and the verandahs of tiny shops held up by wooden posts planted in the kerb’.)34 The new diploma – the first of its kind for the university, the herald of a postwar era of enlightened public planning led by a professionally educated public service élite35 – was soon, though, to be a casualty of the war. Losing a score of its best officers to full-time university study was a luxury a depleted public service could not afford, and the programme was suspended in 1942.
The changing face of the student body was the most visible of the many effects of the war on the college. Air-raid shelters were dug (and their removal with explosives in 1947 caused damage to the memorial window). A greater physical threat to the college than enemy fire, however, was earthquake. The Wairarapa earthquake in June 1942 caused minor damage (some £900 worth) to finials, chimneys and plaster work: it brought down the last remaining pinnacle on the library wing. The nearby teachers' training college fared worse and had to be evacuated, and for two sessions its staff and students were accommodated by Victoria. The war also hastened the demise of the external examinations system. In 1940, after more than 10 years of tedious struggle within the university bureaucracy, the colleges took responsibility for examining their own students for stage-one arts and science courses. The precariousness of transworld shipping during wartime prompted the extension of this hesitant reform to stage-two papers a few years later, and it was extended to stage three and honours from 1948.37
A less happy consequence of these times was another confrontation with the slippery concept of academic freedom. This concerned not a regular member of the college staff but a tutor in adult education, who was technically an employee of the college Council. In 1940 the Council voted (by nine votes to three) to terminate the appointment of a tutor-organiser, A.M. Richards, who had published a pacifist pamphlet. The councillors felt they were being lenient in giving him three months' notice on leave with full pay. Others were less impressed, and the action brought protest from several educational groups and the Students' Association, to no avail. It also prompted both the Council and the Professorial Board to attempt, with some difficulty, to formulate resolutions defining the meaning and extent of academic freedom of speech.38 They of course were not the only ones having difficulty coming to terms with the limits of expression in wartime, as the New Zealand government imposed censorship and emergency measures harsher even than Britain's.
The School and Diploma of Public Administration were revived after the war, although not without problems,39 and the school was formally recognised by the university in 1947. A new diploma class started that year. There was none the next, however, as the Public Service Commission argued to have the course reduced to one year (with prerequisites able to be taken at any college). It raised the issue again in 1949, having agreed in the meantime to provide another class, but the college's insistence on two years as necessary to maintain the academic status of the qualification prevailed. By now the school had a staff of four, including a new professor. Here there had been difficulty too. Lipson had returned to America at the beginning of 1947 (having been besieged with offers while attending a conference in Cleveland), and two years, and some tension between the Council and the advisory committee, passed before a new professor arrived to take his page 63 place: the former lecturer R.S. Parker, who had himself decamped to Canberra with a Commonwealth Research Fellowship in 1946.40 (During the two-year hiatus the acting head of the school was K.J. Scott, the top graduate of the first diploma class, lecturer since 1944, and in turn professor himself.)
The public service bursary scheme, while it conferred the status of ‘special school’, was only part of the new department's teaching. The formation at the college of a Political Science Society in 1947 was indicative of the burgeoning interest in this subject. There were 257 enrolments in political science courses in that overcrowded year, up from 143 in 1945 and 176 in 1949. Lipson had from the outset also taught political science for the BA. Revised undergraduate courses were introduced in 1949–50 and an MA course in 1950. Victoria's would remain the only political science department in a New Zealand university until the 1960s; and the Political Science journal founded by the society in 1948, and taken over by the school three years and three issues later, the only substantial outlet for publication by New Zealand political scientists for three decades.
The related study of industrial relations, although not taught at Victoria until the 1960s, featured briefly, but not insignificantly, in its work in the 1940s, through a privately and generously endowed five-year research fellowship in ‘social relations in industry’. This was a gratefully accepted windfall, and the fellowship is an episode worth recounting as an illustration of the potential complications of commissioned research, a relatively new experience for the college, in what was then a controversial field – as the Professorial Board's annual report for 1941 unknowingly observed:‘The importance of the problems and the fact that a leading business man has provided the funds for the research give added significance to this addition to the work of the College.’41 It provides too an interesting glimpse of public attitudes towards the university.
The benefactor was Henry Valder, a Hamilton businessman and long-time propagandist for ‘co-partnership’ (or profit-sharing) in industry.42 The offer, received in December 1939, and accepted after only a brief hesitation because of the recent outbreak of war, was for £1500 per annum for five years. The fellow appointed, a university-trained economist from Britain, A.E.C. Hare, began his work in mid–1941. He was ‘to investigate the problems of social and industrial relations, more particularly in New Zealand with special reference to the relations of capital and labour in industry, with a view to discovering means that will make for harmony in those relations’.43 The formulation of this brief was of some concern to Hare, who in his first report to the Council noted the diverse expectations of the job he had encountered – from discovering ‘a new way of life’ to establishing a new arbitration system – and discoursed on the role of the university researcher and the principle of academic freedom. In the course of the fellowship he gave public and college lectures (to regrettably small audiences), and published several interim reports and a final volume, Industrial Relations in New Zealand (1946). This was a large, important and widely disseminated document.44
His work had received extensive publicity, and the college Council was pleased. page 64 But it had not been a happy experience all round. Hare himself found the research frustrating: there was ‘profound public ignorance of the possibilities of dispassionate factual inquiry for social welfare’, so that he had to spend much of his time ‘explaining the nature of scientific social investigation and the place of the university in promoting independent research’. Employers thought he was a stooge of the Labour government, while trade unions were suspicious of the university; the Department of Labour was resentful and obstructive, seeing the very fact of his investigation as implied criticism; he was subject to personal attacks in the press and Parliament.45 Nonetheless, Hare's assessment at the end of the project was more positive. Valder, however, was definitely not pleased, informing the Council in 1946 that he was ‘deeply disappointed in the result of the Fellowship which … I consider to have been a dismal failure to attain its objective … I can only say that had I understood that the Council would leave the entire direction of the policy and control of the Fellowship to the Fellow, I most certainly would not have signed the agreement nor do I think any other business man would have done so.’46 He did not, it is clear, subscribe to the normally accepted view of the role of the university researcher – ‘to bring a calm, unbiased, and detached mind to the solution of some of the problems of public administration’, as the newly established Journal of Public Administration defined it in 1938.47 He had had a definite result in mind, but Hare did not agree that radical reform of New Zealand's industrial organisation was necessary.
Victoria's School of Social Science was established, in 1949, on the same model as the School of Public Administration: with a special grant from the government, offering a two-year postgraduate diploma (for training professional social workers) and overseen by an advisory committee. Its genesis, however, was somewhat different, for the initiative came from within rather than outside the university. In a report on new developments for the university conference in 1944, the college had put its case for a School of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Studies. Sociology and anthropology, it was argued, would benefit both undergraduates and civil servants who ‘desire to specialize for work among native peoples either in New Zealand or in other islands of the Pacific’. Wellington had, moreover (as G.H. Scholefield had pointed out 24 years earlier), exceptional resources for study in this field in its libraries and the Dominion Museum, and as the seat of government. Social studies was a necessary complement to both these subjects, as it was to economics and public administration in which Victoria already specialised. Unfortunately, Auckland had put up a similar proposal. Hunter, the tactician, suggested a compromise: Auckland could have anthropology, Wellington would take sociology.48
Top line: Professors Robertson, Florance, Gordon. Centre: Sir T.A. Hunter. Bottom line: Dr J.C. Beaglehole, Professor Wood, Mr Page. Cappicade, 1948
So, it might be said, the development of the ‘new-fangled’ social sciences at Victoria came in on the coat-tails of professional training for civil servants. To an extent, however, the college already had a certain social science bent in the work of Hunter, Sutherland and Ernest Beaglehole. In education too, W.H. (Nat) Gould, professor from 1927 to 1946, brought to his teaching a sociological and anthropological approach, as well as an aversion to ‘dogmatism and pompous authoritarianism’ to match Hunter's. He was an economics graduate and had been director of education in Tonga, ‘a dynamic and, when aroused, awesome figure, small and swarthy … sharp beaked and hawklike of visage’, and his theme was the social forces that shaped education systems and the place of education in page 66 social reconstruction.53 His sociological approach was shared by his lecturer from 1930 to 1938, Arnold Campbell, ‘considered by his academic colleagues the College's finest teacher’.54 Now too there was H.C.D. Somerset, a new lecturer in this department in 1948, who had already published his landmark study in rural sociology, Littledene (1938). Thus, the social research and socialist currents of the 1930s reinforced the existing social science bent – the Hunter theme, it might be said – of the college.
Among the unfinished business of the fellowship in social relations in industry was a chair in industrial relations. It had been proposed by the Council in 1949, but rejected by the Professorial Board (which recommended instead that the subject, already under consideration by the university following an approach from the New Zealand Employers' Federation, be included if possible in the work of the new School of Social Science). The fellowship had, however, had a practical result in the establishment in 1942 of the industrial psychology division of the DSIR, which was based for four years at the college under the direction of the lecturer in psychology, Leslie Hearnshaw.55 The success (popular and financial) of a public lecture series on this subject in 1944, a request from the Health and Labour Departments in 1949 for a special course in it, and the expectation of more approaches of this kind prompted Hunter to draw up guidelines for incorporating such work into the regular responsibilities of departments.
In the science faculty, links with outside agencies, notably the government, were formed through research rather than teaching. In addition to wartime work, in the 1940s the DSIR funded research projects on low temperatures and the humpback whales in Tory Channel, and the Marine Department a study of the spiny crayfish. The zoology professor directed research on rat poison for the City Council. The arrangement of science within the college was also changing through a natural process of academic cell division, although this – the creation of new subjects and departments through increasing specialisation – was to be more a feature of the following decades. When Kirk retired at the end of 1944 his chair was divided, and separate professors appointed in zoology (L.R. Richardson) and botany (H.D. Gordon). Geography too was now to come into its own. It had survived the threat to its principal sponsor, Cotton, and in the 1940s pressure grew, from the New Zealand Geographical Society and the newly established University Entrance Board, for the expansion of geography teaching in the university. D.W. McKenzie was appointed part-time assistant in physical geography in 1945 (the Professorial Board insisting that no part of his salary was to be borne by Cotton, who had offered) and the college's first full-time geography lecturer the following year. A professor of geography was on the Professorial Board's wishlist from 1947, but it was not until Cotton's retirement in 1953 that a separate chair and department were created.
In stepping out from under the sheltering wing of geology, the new department was also to reposition itself closer to the humanities than the sciences. The professor, page 67 Keith Buchanan, brought from Birmingham a background in human, or social geography – ‘human ecology’, he defined his subject in his inaugural lecture – which was to have an enduring influence. This, and an interdisciplinary or ‘holistic’ approach, Victoria's Geography Department would come to claim as its distinctive, indeed renegade, character.56
It should not be thought, however, that all important academic developments in the college in this period were in the sciences, social, political or physical. The war and its aftermath had a distorting effect. Laboratories may have been overflowing, but in 1949 there were still more than twice as many students taking arts courses as studying science, as there had been 20 years earlier; twice as many as were taking commerce, and six times as many as were doing law.
In the same year as the lectureship in geography, 1946, a Department of Music was established under a lecturer, Frederick Page. He did not have to wait for students: ‘they were clammering for attention’.58 Music, Beaglehole observes, flourished in the college during the war years, in clubs and societies and the music room, where the Carnegie gift was supplemented by a donation from the newly established British Council in 1947.59 One stimulus to this, and one of the incidental benefits of cohabitation with the teachers' training college in 1942–43, was the use of the training college piano; now the college had to have its own. An instrument was acquired at the end of 1943, and replaced in 1947 (with the assistance of the High Commission in London) by a Steinway grand.
Douglas Lilburn, New Zealand composer. ATL C21854
Victoria was belated in its acquisition of a Music Department – the subject had been taught in the university since the 1880s. But Victoria's would be different. The MusB syllabus was very academic, English, and old: ‘it seems,’ Page wrote in 1949, ‘to be an adaptation of the course set by examiners in London up to about 1930’.60 Page, whose taste leaned to Schoenberg and Hindemith, thought the only objects of studying music were better performance and better composition. To this end he recruited from Christchurch as his assistant in 1947 Douglas Lilburn, who had already a reputation as New Zealand's foremost composer, having scooped the prizes in the centennial competitions. But he had no degree: ‘The southern professors, full of letters, went round in circles deploring’ his appointment, Page later remarked, while ‘Professor Hollinrake at Auckland was so impressed by our orchestration papers that he suggested that he might come down to study with Lilburn’.61 Between them, Page and Lilburn founded a Music Department at Victoria distinguished by its creative rather than musicological approach, by its emphasis on performance and composition.
‘All true university education merges into research, and active research is a vital part of the university,’ stated the college's submission to the Senate in 1946 on the ‘aims and functions of the university’. This was hardly a new idea: university reformers had been arguing this point since the 1870s; Easterfield had done so in his inaugural lecture in 1899. Research, it continued, included not only ‘finding something new in a test-tube, or deciphering an ancient manuscript’, but also ‘informed commentary on public questions, the application of scholarship and critical intelligence to problems of economics, literature, philosophy, education and other fields of endeavour’.62 The centrality of research to the work of a university may not have been a new idea but it was one which received considerable emphasis in the immediate postwar years. It was the subject of the first address to the Senate in 1946 by the university's new chancellor, Mr Justice David Smith (‘the reforming chancellor’, the university's historian has called him, a Victoria graduate and a member of its Council from 1939 to 1945), and of a pamphlet by Karl Popper and others at Canterbury University College published in 1945. It was encouraged by the establishment of a university research committee in 1946, to dispense a £10,000 annual government grant (most of which went to science departments); the reintroduction that year of the PhD degree (after a brief experiment in the 1920s); and the institution of refresher leave.
At Victoria, in addition, there was the appointment in October 1948 of a senior research fellow and lecturer in colonial history – a new, and singular, position. page 70 Hunter explained to the Council: ‘although provision was to be made for the establishment of a Senior Research Fellowship at Victoria University College it was intended in the first instance for research in the History of the Pacific and that Dr. J.C. Beaglehole was to be the first appointee’.63 Actually, the genesis of this appointment was not exactly as he implied. It had originated as a proposal for a research chair to be established to enable Beaglehole to take up invitations to edit the Cook journals for the Hakluyt Society and the Joseph Banks papers at the Mitchell Library in Sydney. Thus relieved of normal teaching duties, he would be able ‘to do these and other major researches, and at the same time to act as a stimulating force within the College Department of History. It is an opportunity that ought not to be missed,’ Hunter urged. The Council approved the plan, but the minister, when approached for funding, demurred, suggesting that instead of a chair in Pacific history they establish a senior research fellowship at an appropriate salary.64 In this way Beaglehole, who had regretted when he returned to New Zealand from London in 1932 ‘that I could not for ever be a research student’, now found himself in the enviable position of a full-time research scholar, embarked on his career as the foremost editor and biographer of Captain James Cook.65
Graduation, Town Hall, 1947, J.C. Beaglehole at the organ. ATL PA Coll 4877
From 1932 there were also theses in commerce, a handful each year, exclusively on New Zealand topics. A rare but outstanding contribution in English was E.H. McCormick's on ‘Literature in New Zealand’, which won him a travelling scholarship and grew into his Cambridge MLitt, which in turn became the centennial survey Letters and Art in New Zealand, a classic text of New Zealand literary criticism. An impressed councillor (later chancellor, Duncan Stout, doctor, historian and son of Robert) suggested in 1933 that the ‘worthiest’ of the student theses be published. They weren't, but it was decided in 1936 to ask students to donate one copy of their thesis to the college library, or to procure one in cases of ‘outstanding merit’.68
Publications by staff listed in the college calendar had numbered fewer than 10 a year through the 1920s until the late 1930s, and science (and Cotton) reigned. All but one before 1937 were in the physical and natural sciences, or occasionally the social sciences – these mostly by Hunter in psychology and Sutherland's work on the Maori.69 The single exception was J.C. Beaglehole's Captain Hobson and the New Zealand Company (his MA thesis, published while he was a research student in London in 1928). From 1938 production increased rapidly, with 20–30 publications listed in most years until 1946; 63 in 1947–48; 50 in 1948–49. Half or fewer were in science, its dominance now challenged by more sociological work (notably by Ernest Beaglehole), history, law in the 1940s (most by I.D. page 72 Campbell, who joined the faculty in 1940), Hare and Hearnshaw on industrial relations and industrial psychology, and Lipson and Parker on politics and administration. The English Department was a slow starter: the first publications were two articles by Ian Gordon in the newly founded Turnbull Library Record in 1940.
In the 1940s the college also ventured into publishing on its own account, beginning with the first of Hare's interim reports. Towards the end of 1941, from an initial suggestion by Gordon, a publications committee of the Professorial Board was established and a publications fund created (with £200 a year). Its first fruits were Nicholas Copernicus: quadricentennial addresses, three lectures given in May 1943 to mark the 400th anniversary of the astrologer's death;70 and Greek Tragedy Compared with Modern Drama by L.H.G. Greenwood, fellow of Emmanuel College and a temporary lecturer in classics. There had been a plan to publish Lipson's study of government in New Zealand, The Politics of Equality (a work that had been the cause of an official complaint to the Professorial Board from the librarian about the professor's keeping some 100 volumes of the parliamentary debates in his room for months), but the University of Chicago Press did this in 1948. Victoria's first book proper was published in 1944 and was the product of another series of lectures, on New Zealand and the Statute of Westminster (Hunter's idea, edited by J.C. Beaglehole). It was followed in 1946 by a festschrift – the first in a New Zealand university – to Tommy Hunter. Designed by Beaglehole, these were classics of the Beaglehole typographical style. So was the college's 50th jubilee history published in 1949 – not, however, by the college, but by the New Zealand University Press.
Through adult education too the college extended its influence into the community – beyond the city to ‘the Middle District’, and to the working class, as Stout had meant it to. Since the Workers' Educational Association movement had been established in this country (from Britain) in 1915, the provision of adult education had been the joint responsibility of the university colleges and the district committees of the WEA, and was carried on during the depression with a Carnegie grant when government funding was withdrawn. It had quickly flourished since the first three Wellington classes were organised in 1915 in economics, English and electricity: 21 were held in 1920; in 1937 there were eight, 10-lecture courses in economics, ‘thinking and speaking’ (taken by Hunter), modern literature, art, drama, child psychology, man and his environment, and current history. By the late 1940s some 20 city courses were offered along with country courses, box courses, discussion groups and craft groups. It was work to which several of the Victoria staff made a strong commitment, not least Tommy Hunter, who had been the founding president of WEA in Wellington, and chaired the Tutorial Classes Committee for many years until the demands of university administration interfered. It also contributed to the college's reputation as a place of liberal (or dangerous) ideas.
Public lectures on topical issues were a means by which, increasingly, the college published itself. There were series on totalitarianism in 1940, ‘Problems of the Pacific’ (in aid of patriotic funds) in 1941, and a postwar reconstruction series held page 73 at the RSA hall in 1945. In this period too there was inaugurated, briefly, an address to mark the college's Foundation Day: not the anniversary of the first Council meeting, 23 May, but the day after, which was Queen Victoria's birthday. Arnold Campbell, now director of the Council for Educational Research, did the honours in 1944, and another former college teacher turned administrator, Ernest Marsden, was invited the following year. These developments suggest a growing awareness of and desire to enhance the college's public role. It ‘is not dully academic,’ stated the dustjacket of The Statute of Westminster, ‘and it will interest every New Zealander who wants to know where his country is going, and why’. The Council did not, however, take up the innovative suggestion of one of its members, who in 1943 ‘asked leave to ventilate the question of the possible appointment at some future date of a Publicity Officer’.71
Now, too, the professors were outnumbered. In 1930 they had made up half of the teaching staff; in 1940 they were just over a third; in 1949, 22%. Only two new chairs were created in this period, compared with 45 sub-professorial positions. This altered not only the classroom experience of the students but also the academic organisation, and politics, of the college. A Committee of Lecturers and Assistant Lecturers had been formed in 1932 to promote the status and salaries of the expanding academic underclass. It was chaired by mathematics lecturer F.F. Miles (who soon became the professor, though, when Sommerville died in 1936). The secretary was Hilda Heine, a graduate of the college who had done her postgraduate work in Berlin before joining the commerce faculty in 1928, teaching economic history and statistics, and who rose to senior lecturer by her retirement in 1953 (to write psychological thrillers). They sought in the first instance representation on the Council and Professorial Board, in recognition of the increasing teaching responsibilities of the lecturer, who was no longer merely a professor's personal assistant, deputed to mark papers and help out in the lab, but ‘a junior colleague’. Two lecturers were duly appointed to the Professorial Board, but the councillors declined to admit the sub-professorial class to their table (with an argument that would have surprised a previous generation of university reformers: ‘that the present representation of the [Professorial] Board on the Council is designed not as a means of representing the interests of the staff, but as a means of facilitating the smooth working of the College’, and for this purpose two professors were quite enough).73 This gain was not made until 1948, when an elected representative of the teaching staff was added to the Council along with an additional member of the Professorial Board. From 1947 there were not simply lecturers but junior lecturers and senior lecturers, and a new rank of associate professor was created that year for a teacher ‘who has attained eminence in the work of his lectureship’.74 The first to be so promoted, in November 1949, were A.D. Monro of the Chemistry Department and J.T. Campbell of Mathematics (on the staff since 1921 and 1935 respectively). In the higher echelons of academic administration, a Committee of the Principal and Deans was established in 1947.
The growth of the staff had a social as well as a political effect. The Staff Common Room was fitted out during 1940 (the ubiquitous Beaglehole convened the committee on the decoration and furnishing) in a room vacated when the Royal Society library moved to the new biology building, and opened in 1941.75 Councillors were welcome for afternoon tea, and cups and saucers were purchased in 1945 for serving tea after the Foundation Day address and similar occasions.