1. Problems of the Imagination
1. Problems of the Imagination
This thesis examines the writing of New Zealand history between 1920 and 1940. It addresses the issues of what New Zealand history 'was about' in these years, the various conventions that shaped its research and writing, and the ways in which histories replicated, reformulated and sometimes contested existing textualisations of 'New Zealand'. It is an exercise in intellectual history and attempts to relate texts and contexts in ways different from those used in other works of New Zealand intellectual history.
This introductory chapter outlines some of the problems explored in this study. It sets out a general conception of the cultural framework of history-writing in interwar New Zealand, surveys some of the institutional changes affecting the writing of New Zealand history, and explains the method I have adopted for reading works of history.
I have organised my discussion of history-writing, and Pakeha culture generally, under the rubric of colonisation. In doing so I have followed the lead of Peter Gibbons in his discussion of non-fiction in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature and in an essay published in Sites in 1986.1 The manifold acts of writing can be viewed as acts of 'cultural colonisation'.2 Few would dispute this in the case of, say, political tracts written in an attempt to delegitimate Maori culture and rights, or flagrant appropriations of taonga. But even texts that do not refer to Maori people can be part of the enterprise of colonisation in their treatment of the European presence in Aotearoa as natural, normative, or simply not needing explanation or justification. The search for a 'home in thought' that was prominent among university-associated writers in the 1930s often eschewed the orientalism of other nationalist images but was colonialist in its concern with turning Europeans into page 2'settlers' in a cultural sense, rather than unsettled exiles, or godwit-like birds of passage.3
For this reason 'cultural colonisation' has more power as an interpretative category than national identity, which has been used more often in discussions of historical writing and other Pakeha cultural products.4 I have further reasons for adopting the concept, however. 'Cultural colonisation' is not just a heuristic device imposed retrospectively on early twentieth-century New Zealand: it was a concept employed by contemporary writers to describe the work of creating a culture. Commentators on New Zealand literature blamed the defects of the works they discussed on the fact that most colonists had been busy with practical pioneering tasks, but then expressed the hope that future colonists would be able to write poetry and fiction in ways analogous to the colonising activities of their forebears. The first and second generations of European New Zealanders had 'comparatively little time for things not practical—the columns must be set up before we turn to moulding the entablature.'5 In the early decades of the twentieth century, it was possible to turn to moulding the entablature of high culture, and writers and scholars were routinely dubbed 'pioneers'. The relationship between 'breaking in' the land and cultural 'pioneering' is one reason why a book so saturated in farming detail as H. Guthrie-Smith's Tutira could be recommended so forcefully by thoroughly urban people as a way of understanding New Zealand.6
Cultural colonisation remained a stated goal well after the interwar period. In this vein J. C. Beaglehole's 1954 lecture 'The New Zealand Scholar' invoked Robert Frost's poem 'The Gift Outright' as an appropriate description of the colonial cultural predicament:
The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
page 3 But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by ….7
Employing the terms of the people one is writing about has the advantage of recapturing some of the tenor of their work. As such, colonisation has interpretative advantages in this context that its alternatives, such as class, gender and age, do not have. Issues of class, gender and age are discussed frequently in this thesis, but they are not privileged as interpretative concepts in the way colonisation is. Colonisation pervaded these categories in interwar New Zealand; in part it structured them. The colonising framework is implicated, for instance, in the distinction between private and public spheres in local histories.
Nevertheless, using the terms of the colonisers themselves can be a risky strategy. However, 'colonisation' is such a two-sided word that it is less open to reinscriptions of colonialist sentiments than are more subtle tropes, such as European 'adaptation' to 'new world' conditions. 'Colonisation' is Manichean. It means both settlement and creation, dispossession and destruction. The former pair depends on the latter pair. 'There is no document of civilization', Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940, 'which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.'9 Pakeha historians, poets and other writers usually treated 'New Zealand' as a 'document' of creation while repressing the destruction in which the colony was implicated. It is now difficult to do that.
In the years 1920-40 the major task of cultural colonisation was what Terry Goldie calls 'indigenisation'. Writing with reference to Canada, Goldie comments:
The white Canadian looks at the Indian. The Indian is Other and therefore alien. But the Indian is indigenous and therefore cannot be alien. So the Canadian must be alien. But how can the Canadian be alien within Canada?
There are only two possible answers. The white culture can attempt to incorporate the Other, superficially, through beaded moccasins and names like Mohawk Motors, or with much more sophistication, through the novels of Rudy Wiebe. Conversely, the page 4white culture may reject the indigene: This country really began with the arrival of the whites.'10
Both these broad kinds of indigenisation, attempts at the paradoxical task of 'becoming indigenous', have occurred in New Zealand. In New Zealand, as in Canada, cultural appropriation occurred in both 'high' and 'popular' culture. In the scholarly domain that is the focus of this thesis, the headquarters of cultural appropriation was the Polynesian Society. The ethnological work of the society's members had few overt relations to government and the so-called Maori problem: it was more concerned with absorbing the 'colour' and uniqueness of taonga into Pakeha culture. Similar operations can be discerned in writing about New Zealand flora, fauna and 'scenery', not only in tourist propaganda but also in less tendentious writing.11 In writing about Maori and native plants and animals, Pakeha created texts that celebrated 'the remnants of that alien world which the original colonists tried to destroy'.12 These kinds of writing may be denoted by the oxymoron 'patriotic exoticism'.13
Historical writing at this time engaged with patriotic exoticism in residual ways if at all. Local histories avoided celebrating the indigenous. Their accounts of the taming of the wilderness were seldom attended by regret. The histories T. Lindsay Buick wrote in the interwar period cultivated the 'picturesque' in their description of scenes such as Waitangi in February 1840, but they did not stress the exotic. Much more complicit with patriotic exoticism were James Cowan's many historical works on 'frontier' New Zealand. They invested the remaining pristine specimens of New Zealand scenery with a rich exoticism and recounted stories of cannibalism in some page 5detail. More generally, Cowan painted New Zealand's 'pioneering period' as 'teeming' with fascinating encounters between settlers and Maori.
The other indigenising strategy Goldie mentions—'This country really began with the arrival of the whites'—was much more in evidence in New Zealand historiography. It was seldom stated, and may seldom have been thought consciously. But the assumption that 'New Zealand' practically meant Pakeha New Zealand was a defining assumption of much historical and other writing. These writings were quite diverse. One kind was the worship of Britain, of which Alan Mulgan's Home is often taken as the epitome. Just as the country one lived in could be exotic, a country one had never seen could be 'home'. Others, such as Jessie Mackay, worshipped Ireland and Scotland as well as or instead of the England that Mulgan's 'heart ache[d] to see'.14
It is not difficult to find pro-British statements in New Zealand historical writing. Nor is it surprising. The important point is that the treatment of Britain as 'Home' often meant that what counted as a valid aspect of New Zealand history was a function of the Britishness that could be discerned in it. The work of James Hight is a good example of this. The same assumption underpinned research on New Zealand conducted (often by expatriate New Zealanders) at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London. Here the assumption rested not (just) on a New Zealand 'Home'-sickness, but on those universities' definitions of history: New Zealand history was not important in itself but could be relevant to the overall study of British colonial policy.
Being aware of Britain did not necessarily entail a neglect of those aspects of New Zealand's past which could not convincingly be seen as an expression of Britishness. The Wellington book-collector and historian, Horace Fildes, was interested in the New Zealand Wars and Maori society, but he also had investments in the cult of Wakefield. Both empire-worship and muted forms of patriotic exoticism could occur in two works by the same writer, or even the same text. Buick combined paeans to 'the' British character (not just in prefaces) with his exploitation of the 'picturesque' and 'romantic' in the history of Maori-European contact. Neither the exaltation of the New Zealand picturesque nor a concern with New Zealand's Britishness may be locked into a particular period, or a particular generation.15page 6
William Downie Stewart, a historian born, like Cowan and Andersen, in the 1870s, told E. H. McCormick in 1940: 'I … doubt whether I agree with your view that the … pakeha thinks with pride of … Maori history as part of his background & tradition. Does he not instinctively link himself up with his English origins & regard Maori history as a thing apart?'16
Voluble imperialism and patriotic exoticism alike were frowned upon by the young intellectuals who have since been canonically identified with the 1930s. Nationalism was by no means the only concern of these varied groups of people (Allen Curnow, James Bertram, A. R. D. Fairburn, M. H. Holcroft, and many others); even the first year of Phoenix was at least as internationalist as nationalist.17 The relevant point here is that when such people talked about a 'native' or 'indigenous' literature, they meant one that was Pakeha and did not depend on borrowings from Maori culture or kitsch treatments of natural beauty.18 The exclusion of Maori from the idea of 'New Zealand' was most thorough in those writings concerned with the apparent 'common problem of the imagination' manifested in the idea 'that we are confronted by a natural time, a natural order, to which our presence in these islands is accidental, irrelevant; that we are interlopers on an indifferent or hostile scene'.19
Of the historians active in the interwar period, only Beaglehole and McCormick (who, I will later argue, may legitimately be viewed as a historian) engaged in their work with the indigenising strategies of these writers. Beaglehole's New Zealand: A Short History addressed the question of a genuine New Zealand identity and the apparent lack of existing local resources from which to construct one. McCormick's Letters and Art in New Zealand blurred the distinctions between 'general' history and literary history, and located an emergent New Zealand identity in the writing of Sargeson and John Mulgan, not in the patriotic exoticist literature long touted as a solution. Cowan opposed McCormick's arguments about literature, and the general page 7tendency of McCormick, Beaglehole and the 'creative' writers to situate Pakeha identity in poetry and fiction.20
There were major divisions between historians as to what counted as New Zealand history, and as to what its overall moral was. The most serious divide was between those who claimed that Maori-Pakeha interaction was the driving force behind New Zealand history, and those who favoured narratives in which Pakeha built a society in a physical and cultural wilderness, narratives in which Maori played only incidental parts. Writing in this latter category ranged from local histories that centred on the efforts of pioneers, to heavily academic works on formal sovereignty and matters of government and administration. In the histories written for the New Zealand Centennial some of these different kinds of Maori-excluding narrative coalesced, while narratives that accorded Maori a more important place were edged out.
Changes in the marketplace of culture had a bearing on these metanarratives and practices. This is one reason I have held off defining the terms 'history' and 'historian' until this point. Some people may balk at the inclusion of the work of Early Settlers' Associations; others may object to Horace Fildes being described as a historian. Such objections are based on the assumption that 'real' historians are 'professional' historians, those who work in universities or for government historical agencies. That assumption is inappropriate to this thesis, which is a study of the state of New Zealand historiography before these professional niches were well established.21 Fildes and others were considered historians by their colleagues and certain members of the public who left behind written evidence of their opinions. A 'historian' may be defined simply as someone who writes history. Or, better, a person is a historian when she or he writes history or engages in associated activities such as teaching or historical debate. I have taken 'history' to be writing about the past which claims factual truth instead of, or as well as, artistic 'truth'. 'History' is a European form of knowledge and I have not attempted to confuse matters, or claim an authority I do not have, by treating Pakeha works of history alongside whakapapa and other Maori forms of discourse.
The period 1920-40 has been chosen as much for the range of histories written then as for the changes in the practice of history in these years. The beginning date is page 8not a hard-and-fast border; the years around the end of World War I saw the writing of a number of important works by established practitioners in New Zealand history and the first incursions into the subject by academics. The period closes with the disruption of war, the deaths of some notable New Zealand historians, the inauguration of a tradition of history that was to last in the universities for several decades, and the large historiographical project of the New Zealand Centennial.
The common factor in the institutional changes during this period was state involvement. Government fostering of scholarship and the arts began before the interwar period, and reached a peak after it. It needs to be stressed that this involvement was inconsistent and intermittent, though it became more concerted after 1935. A cultural infrastructure heavily dependent on the state was being created.
Local historians did not benefit from governmental largesse until the provincial histories commemorating the Centennial were assembled. State patronage had more effect on historians with national rather than local reputations and interests. Governments had sponsored historical work intermittently since Robert McNab began his Historical Records in the first decade of the twentieth century. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s there were ad hoc investments in historical documents and the subsidising or commissioning of works of history, and in 1934 the Dominion Museum hired Buick to gather historical data. A government activity of great importance to the practice of history was the maintenance of the Alexander Turnbull Library from 1920 onwards.
Parallel developments occurred in other areas of scholarship. In the natural sciences, the state subsidised the New Zealand Institute and fostered scientific activity through the Dominion Museum, the Board of Science and Art, and, after 1926, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.22 The Museum also employed Elsdon Best to write up his ethnological work, and in the early twenties Apirana Ngata and Gordon Coates set up the Board of Maori Ethnological Research and the Maori Purposes Fund Board, which also sponsored ethnology.23
There was thus a considerable level of government involvement in cultural life even before 1935. That year, of course, saw the advent of the first Labour government, many of whose self-educated members were believers in scholarship and the arts. It was also the year when Joseph Heenan became Under-Secretary for Internal Affairs, the department responsible for most of the cultural dimensions of government activity. Together Heenan, Peter Fraser and, to a lesser extent, W. E. page 9Parry established systematic government support for the arts and scholarship. Much of that story belongs to the 1940s, but in the last few years of the interwar period the government granted pensions to ailing writers and, more importantly, brought about the huge publishing programme associated with the Centennial.
The most important state cultural activity of the period, however, was the expansion of the university colleges. In 1920 the colleges were meagrely equipped teaching institutions with unevenly trained staff. In the next two decades, library facilities and salaries began to improve, and the colleges recruited more staff with experience of academic research at overseas universities. A great deal more scholarly research was conducted. By the end of this period, the universities still had their limitations, but they were fairly active intellectual forums, cultivating scholars, commentators, writers, scientists and, just as importantly, new kinds of readers and talkers.24
In assessing the impact of the universities on intellectual activity, two main points need to be kept in mind. The first is that academics were seldom the first people to work in a given field. In the natural sciences, existing institutions and their 'amateur' members accommodated and transformed the growth of the universities and the increase in other patronage of science.25 In ethnology, the expansion of the universities was less extensive and less steady: some of the Polynesian Society's older members, and Andersen, the editor of its Journal for much of this period, successfully resisted the few academic incursions into the journal until the 1940s.26 Writing fiction and poetry was not something the university colleges taught, but analogous events occurred in literary circles, as some young, university-educated writers of the 1930s challenged a literary establishment whose power base was in the literary pages of the daily newspapers.
The incursion of the universities into the writing of New Zealand history (which may be dated to the publication of James Hight and H. D. Bamford's Constitutional History and Law of New Zealand in 1914, but began in earnest in the 1920s) provoked less outright conflict than occurred in literary and ethnological circles. Some academics, such as John Rawson Elder of Otago University, worked according to conventions shared by some prominent non-university historians. Others mingled with non-academics in the branches of the New Zealand Historical Association. But there were fundamental differences between younger academics and other historians, in method, subject-matter, and style. Often these stayed page 10private, in critical readings of others' books rather than in open debate. Direct conflict between academics and non-academics over the writing of history became most pronounced when historians of different kinds were brought together for the Centennial historical publications from 1937 to 1941. When a roughly analogous conflict occurred in 1932-4 in the Polynesian Society, the arena was the society's journal.27 History lacked the strong national organisation of ethnology, and the assembly of very different historians on the Centennial project was the closest history came to a conflict in a place as central to the field as the Journal of the Polynesian Society was to ethnology.
The conflict between historians on the Centennial project is more important for the comparisons it reveals than for its impact on the writing of New Zealand history. This brings me to the second point. Academics' increasing influence derived to a considerable extent from the larger university-educated public that they had helped to create. The 'rise' of the universities did not always entail a 'triumph', a point where a field of study became 'professionalised'. Academic ethnology came close to such a point, though well after 1940. The Polynesian Society became 'academicised' (an ugly word, but one more accurate than 'professionalised'), and thereafter most ethnological work with scholarly claims was done in universities, but there remained a popular demand for 'Maori myths and legends', to which writers and publishers such as A. H. and A. W. Reed catered. In literature, young writers with university experience and often with modernist leanings gained institutional ground from 'Mulgan, Marris, Schroder' (most conspicuously in their editions of anthologies) but not everyone in New Zealand, not even a majority, was reading Sargeson and Curnow.28
Similarly, in the case of history, the rise of the universities did not altogether discredit in the public eye the kinds of history practised by Cowan, Buick, Scholefield and others. Today there is still a substantial number of historians who work outside the universities and who have a national readership (a readership that includes university graduates). Some writers continue to produce work in the style of historians discussed in this thesis; some have won the James Cowan Award for Historical Journalism.
These points have two main implications for this thesis. First, it is important not to assume that in the interwar period the universities spread out into empty space, and that there were no 'real' historians before Beaglehole, J. B. Condliffe and page 11other academics arrived on the scene.29 A large number of the historians discussed in this thesis worked outside the university colleges and were members of intellectual communities that were relatively detached from academia. Secondly, the changes in the practice of New Zealand history in this period did not amount to a revolution, but they were significant. One of the purposes of this study is to show how institutional changes intersected with the historiographical elements of what Gibbons calls 'the textual production of "New Zealand"'.30 It is this 'textual production' that is the primary concern of the thesis. Associated matters such as teaching, broadcasting, the accumulation of source material, the reputations and impact of particular historians, and indeed the institutional changes just canvassed, are dealt with, sometimes in some detail, but they are made to illuminate the writing of history, not vice versa.
This brings me to another 'problem of the imagination': how to write about historical texts. My response to this 'problem' requires some elaboration because it does not draw greatly on local precedents. Until recently, literary critics have tended to ignore New Zealand non-fiction other than autobiography.31 New Zealand historians have not been unaware of the literary dimensions of their discipline, but in general they have discussed their predecessors' writing in brief tributes, eulogies or 'historiographical' essays.32 The most important work on non-fiction, including historical writing, is Gibbons' essay in the Oxford History of New Zealand Literature. This thesis is heavily indebted to Gibbons' essay, not just in its overall outlines but also its specifics. Gibbons' methods, however, are not appropriate to a narrower and more detailed study such as this one. Gibbons recognises this and implicitly distinguishes himself from '[t]hose who would write the literary history of New Zealand non-fiction in detail'. He advises those writing that history to 'read the texts as multiple drafts' of the textual production of New Zealand.33
The metaphor of multiple drafts, of discourse as a kind of work-in-progress, is applicable to any kind of writing. But it has an almost literal relevance to non-fiction, which is explicitly based on factual sources and the writing of other scholars. Non-fiction's invocation and manipulation of these sources is what most distinguishes it from other kinds of writing. Consequently, non-fiction writings cannot be page 12adequately explored through orthodox biographies which see texts as straightforward products of authorial intent. Nor is it enough to place particular texts within wider traditions without exploring how those traditions engage with the subject-matter of individual texts. To treat a text as largely determined by an international tradition such as Western anthropology makes the same error as an orthodox 'literary biography': it attributes the important characteristics of a text to a central originating power.34 The study of non-fiction texts 'in detail' requires a more complex conception of the relationships between texts and their contexts.
Though Jacques Derrida's terms have become diluted through overuse, I think that text and context are a binarism in the Derridean sense: two terms that exist only through their opposition, a conceptual opposition that masks their mutual implication in each other. The cliche 'the context explains' does not hold. For one thing, '[i]f contextualization were fully explanatory, texts would be derivative items in which nothing new or different happened'.35 Moreover, there is no such thing as 'the' context, which exists outside the text and which in some way 'produces' the text. Each text has multiple contexts, which are themselves heterogeneous collections of texts. Texts are created by the combination of different contextual elements, such as authors' life experiences and intentions, other books, the publishing market, current events, and, for historians, 'primary sources'. A text is a permutation of contexts, and contexts are maintained and renewed in texts. Contexts are inside texts as well as outside them.
I am arguing that non-fiction, like other kinds of discourse, is intertextual—that texts are created by encounters between already existing cultural materials. Not all those cultural materials are 'texts' in the limited sense of the word: ideology, 'facts', 'events' and 'lives' are not 'texts' in the literal sense in which books are. But, in discourse, ideology, facts, events and lives are textualised.
To elaborate on and clarify these arguments I will say some more about the principal kinds of contexts that were rearranged in the texts discussed in this thesis: 'ideology' and 'culture', authors' intentions and lives, 'primary' and 'secondary' sources, and the conventions of historical writing.
'Ideology' and 'culture', including the colonial problems outlined above, should not be treated as forces that 'author' all texts with only minimal mediation by other forces, such as individual writers and source material. Ideology and culture themselves are not extra-textual: they exist through appropriations and combinations. 'Meanings are never simply inscribed on the minds and bodies of page 13those to whom they are directed or on whom they are "imposed" but are always reinscribed in the act of reception.'36 Many of the texts discussed in this thesis reinscribed ideology quite straightforwardly. But it is a mistake to assume texts to be middens of social attitudes, from which one may pluck unproblematic evidence of 'attitudes to' this or 'perceptions of' that. Such claims may be valid as conclusions, but they should not be assumptions. Departures from received ideas occur in surprising places in the works discussed in this thesis. One of the things I hope to give a sense of is the variety within Pakeha ideology and its colonising problematic. Histories sharing the same assumptions could be very different, as is demonstrated by the local histories, Condliffe's New Zealand in the Making, and the Centennial surveys. Pakeha ideology, including its racism, is more complex than some accounts admit.37
The second group of contexts I wish to comment on is that of authors' intentions and lives. My emphasis on intertextuality and appropriation means that I am hostile both to the dissolution of authorial and textual particulars into an amorphous discursive gene-pool and to the privileging of authorial intent or life-experiences as a primary determinant of a text, Roland Barthes's treatment of the death of the author ignores the way in which writing, by reprocessing existing texts, is a kind of reading.38 Authors are important agents of that reading. For the most part I have drawn on biographical data for quite impersonal information—for instance, to find out whether a writer had read this or that book, as evidence of how they came by their information; or for the nature of their education. Biographical information has some particular dangers when used to interpret texts. One problem is that 'intentions' are often formulated retrospectively; there are dangers in assuming a coherence in an author's overt intentions or supposedly deeper patterns structured by their life experiences.39 A related practice is the attribution of aspects of texts to Irish' or 'Scottish' traits of their authors. This is not inevitably wrong, but without substantial documentation it is simply the friendly inverse of scapegoating. There is also the problem that authors with similar lives may write very different books. I have not sought, for instance, to pin Cowan's writings about Maori down to the bicultural experiences of his childhood in the 1870s and 1880s, which he spent on a farm on the site of the battle of Orakau. Cowan himself invoked these experiences page 14as evidence of his authority, but others who had similar experiences (such as William Baucke) wrote very differently about Maori.40 By contrast, a family biography such as Airini Woodhouse's George Rhodes of the Levels requires a knowledge of its author's life and social position if its operations are to be adequately understood.
The most fundamental argument against readings that treat authorial intent as an interpretative master-key is that writers can never totally subjugate language or ideology. In historical writing, there is the added consideration of 'primary sources'. Historians' sources are themselves texts, and their voices may offer resistance to attempts to incorporate them into a particular narrative. To treat authorial intent, or 'tropological strategies', as the primary determinants of a history text's character is to essentialise the author (or the stylistic repertoire of his or her time) in much the same way as a 'stenographic' conception of history (where historians unproblematially absorb evidence and then "write it up') essentialises 'the record'.41
The voices of primary sources may also conflict with ideological currents in the historian's present. Source voices may throw the historian's narrative into confusion (as in Cowan's Settlers and Pioneers), lead to a significant but non-revolutionary revision of popular wisdom (as in some of the Centennial surveys), or be obscured by exclusion or rhetorical practice (as in Buick's The Treaty of Waitangi). Not only documents and interviews, but also other books interact with authorial and ideological factors. Among these books are those of people such as Edward Gibbon Wakefield who made New Zealand history through their texts as well as their actions. The texts of these writers and others more remote (among them William Wordsworth and Francis Parkman) traverse the boundaries between past and present. Neglecting such texts and 'primary sources' misses the point that historical discourse is not some mere analogue of 'contemporary' social attitudes but exists through an exchange (albeit with varying degrees of openness) between 'present' and 'past' texts and ideological formations.
Convincingly tracing a history's connections with documents, oral sources and other books is not always possible. In some cases, such as Buick's, the author's remaining papers do not contain detailed working notes, and I have traced their findings back through footnotes, or through references in their own and others' correspondence to what they had read or been told. In other cases, such as those of McCormick and Cowan, I have drawn on substantial collections of working notes or earlier versions. For most local historians, I have had to resort to juxtapositions of a page 15number of texts in the field. An examination of sources and of other contemporaries' practice makes it possible, with varying degrees of success, to sketch what a historian could know at a given time, and thus to log the appropriations and exclusions constituting their texts.
The last contexts that I want to mention are disciplinary and generic conventions, by which I mean the subjects associated with particular traditions of history, and the protocols for ordering source material and arguments in history and in other forms of discourse from which histories borrow, such as fiction. These are protocols that may be policed (especially in the case of the universities) by people with institutional standing. These conventions are cultural materials analogous to (indeed, a local and specific part of) ideology, and are treated here in a similar fashion: I attempt to examine how particular conventions of rhetoric and narrative work within texts. I am using neither 'rhetoric' nor 'narrative' in a pejorative sense. 'Rhetoric' is taken to mean the practice of argument.42 Historians often use 'narrative' as an antonym for 'analysis', but here it is used in a broad sense to denote a historical work's subject matter and the way its material is arranged in the text.43
Analysing narrative and 'aesthetics' lends itself to 'ahistorical' judgements, but provided that the critical voice does not drown out those of the texts being discussed, the gains outweigh the costs. I have tried to ground but not bury my readings in contemporary responses. Whether or not one should ever treat a contemporary response as a representative indication of what a text meant at the time, the decorum of much correspondence and book-reviewing in interwar New Zealand makes such an approach unjustifiable for this study at least. Having read a large number of newspaper reviews of New Zealand books in this period, I can only agree with the lamentations of Holcroft, McCormick and others about New Zealand book-reviewing at this time.44 When frank contemporary discussions are available (and they often are in the letters and notes of Fildes, James Rutherford, Cowan, McCormick and other Centennial workers), I have used them to indicate what some contemporaries made of these texts. These contemporary readings are alternatives or complements to my own.page 16
Overall, therefore, I have tried to treat texts as encounters between different contextual elements. I do not have the space to give detailed readings of every significant text. I have therefore adopted the tactic of surveying a particular body of work in general terms while remaining alert to these matters of 'encounter', and then moving on to an extended reading of one or more exemplary texts. The texts selected are not necessarily 'typical'. They come to terms with their contexts in ways that illuminate the body of work discussed in a given chapter by contest and revision as much as by example. Each chapter deals with a particular community, historiographical project, or author. While authors and institutions are not treated as interpretative master-keys, their significance is recognised in the division of the chapter. No chapter's subject is discrete, but each has enough integrity to make it worth the focus of a chapter of its own. This structure enables me to register the impact of institutions and discursive communities, but does not restrict references to connections with, and divergences from, the work discussed in other chapters. Each chapter makes frequent references beyond its borders. The interconnections between the different chapters are then pulled together more tightly in the conclusion.
Finally, I will indicate how I have divided up my material. The first chapter examines the work of historians writing about their district or family, and for a similarly local audience. Their texts 'colonised' their districts by explaining the district's merits in terms of Pakeha effort, and by claiming autochthony. The pioneer legend they elaborated was adopted but transformed by Cowan, who is the subject of chapter three. Cowan's metanarrative of New Zealand history was the only one in this period to accord Maori an agency comparable to that of Europeans, and it was the only one which thoroughly combined the pioneer legend with an emphasis on the New Zealand Wars and culture-contact. In attempting this syncretism, Cowan's texts disclose some of the contradictions of New Zealand histories at this time, and the incompatibility of Terry Goldie's two paths to indigenisation.
In these respects Cowan was unusual; his difference and the importance of the cultural contradictions he reveals makes him worthy of his own chapter. He was, however, also part of the Wellington circle of historians that I discuss in chapter four. Of this group, Buick too created a narrative of New Zealand's founding out of Maori-Pakeha interaction. Buick's story, set out in his The Treaty of Waitangi, which I discuss at some length, was very different from Cowan's. The rest of chapter four discusses the institutional and interpersonal relationships within which a number of historians wrote history and collected source material.
Chapter five deals with the emergence of a distinctively academic mode of history in New Zealand, and its two main textual products: monographs on New Zealand in the context of imperial historiography, and general histories that page 17'explained' New Zealand. Chapter six examines the Centennial surveys and the ways in which academic concerns and standards intersected with those of other kinds of history to create a series of books that edged out the values of Cowan and Buick and, in places, fused together the narratives of local histories and the methods, styles and concerns of academic works.
1 Peter Gibbons, 'Non-fiction', in Terry Sturm, ed., The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature in English, Auckland, 1991; Gibbons, 'A Note on Writing, Identity, and Colonisation in Aotearoa', Sites, 13 (Spring 1986), pp. 32-8.
2 This concept underpins Gibbons' two essays, but for a discussion of the term, see Peter Gibbons, '"Going Native": A Case Study of Cultural Appropriation in a Settler Society, with Particular Reference to the Activities of Johannes Andersen in New Zealand During the First Half of the Twentieth Century', 3 vols, DPhil thesis, Waikato University, 1992, vol. 3, p. 693n.
4 Keith Sinclair, A Destiny Apart: New Zealand's Search for National Identity, Wellington, 1986, ch. 17; W. L. Renwick, '"Show Us These Islands and Ourselves … Give Us a Home in Thought"', New Zealand Journal of History, 21, 2 (October 1987), pp. 197-214.
6 H. Guthrie-Smith, Tutira: The Story of a New Zealand Sheep Station, 2nd edn., Edinburgh, 1926; E. H. McCormick, Letters and Art in New Zealand, Wellington, 1940, pp. 149-55; J. W. Heenan, 'New Zealand's Greatest Book', text of a talk given in 1936, J. W. Heenan Papers, MS Papers 1132/90, ATL; 'Art and Letters in New Zealand by E. H. McCormick: Talk from 3YA by J. H. E. Schroder', nd , E. H. McCormick Papers, MS Papers 166/14, ATL. See also Alan Mulgan, Literature and Authorship in New Zealand, London, 1943, p. 35.
7 J. C. Beaglehole, 'The New Zealand Scholar', in Peter Munz, ed., The Feel of Truth: Essays in New Zealand and Pacific History, Wellington, 1969, p. 252. Frost's poem was also quoted in Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand, Harmondsworth, 1959, pp. 300-301. Rather than endorsing Frost's poem as Beaglehole did, Sinclair aligned it with the claims of Allen Curnow, Charles Brasch, Ursula Bethell, and other 'South Islanders' who emphasised the rootlessness of life 'in these islands'.
11 Paul Allan Hamer discusses the parallels between Pakeha discussions of indigenous people and indigenous environments, and their respective 'taming', in his 'Nature and Natives: Transforming and Saving the Indigenous in New Zealand', MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 1992.
12 Gibbons, 'A Note on Writing Identity, and Colonisation', p. 33.
13 Ethnology is often referred to in this thesis, as a point of reference, or as another activity of some of the people discussed herein. I do not, however, discuss ethnology directly. While some writers (such as James Cowan and James Herries Beattie) had interests which spanned both history and ethnology, making it difficult to draw a line between 'historians' and 'ethnologists', it is less difficult to draw a line between 'history' and 'ethnology'. Ethnological texts dealt with 'traditional' accounts of 'old-time' Maori, and embodied methodological and disciplinary protocols quite distinct from those involved in writing about events in New Zealand after 1769. The subject-matter was also chronologically distinct, with 1840 or thereabouts as a border. The two kinds of discourse were seldom combined in the same text, and those works that did combine them juxtaposed rather than blended: the discursive register shifted from Maori-centred 'tradition' to European-centred 'history' as the narrative passed through the period 1814-40. Examples include T. W. Downes, Old Whanganui, Hawera, 1915, and George Graham, 'A Maori History of the Auckland Isthmus (Tamaki-Makau-Rau)', in John Barr, The City of Auckland, New Zealand, 1840-1920, Auckland, 1922.
15 J. O. C. Phillips contrasts the 'intellectuals of the nineties in New Zealand—Edward Tregear, Elsdon Best, James Cowan, J. C. Andersen, Arthur Adams, Alfred Hill, Charles Goldie with 'the young intellectuals of the thirties' so as to imply a shift from a nationalism concerned with cultural appropriation to a more academic, European-centred nationalism. Phillips, 'Musings in Maoriland—or Was There a Bulletin School in New Zealand?', Historical Studies, 20, 81 (October 1983), pp. 534-5. The contrast is valid if one inserts the word 'young' into the phrase 'intellectuals of the nineties'. Best, Andersen, Cowan and Goldie were intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s too, and not without authority.
16 Stewart to McCormick, 19 December 1940, McCormick Papers, 166/14.
17 Phoenix, 1, 1 (March 1932); Phoenix, 1, 2 (July 1932). On these writers generally see Stevan Eldred-Grigg, 'A Bourgeois Blue? Nationalism and Letters from the 1920s to the 1950s', Landfall, 41 (September 1987), pp. 293-311.
19 Allen Curnow, 'Introduction' to Curnow, ed., A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-45, Christchurch, 1945, p. 52. See also M. H. Holcroft, The Deepening Stream: Cultural Influences in New Zealand, Christchurch, 1940, pp. 20-21, 23, 30, 31; Curnow, 'Sentence', The Dance', 'House and Land', 'The Scene' and 'Dialogue of Island &Time', in Curnow, Island and Time, Christchurch, 1941, pp. 2, 10, 20-21, 22-3, 40-44; Charles Brasch, 'The Silent Land', in Curnow, ed., Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-45, p. 149.
20 James Cowan, 'New Zealand History: Its Teaching and Its Uses', National Education, 20, 210 (1 March 1938), p. 56. Beaglehole and many writers of fiction and poetry also located a New Zealand identity in domestic politics and New Zealand's participation in international affairs.
21 I have, however, omitted incidental snippets of history such as those that appear in promotional pamphlets and encyclopaedias. These kinds of writing, and historical pieces in the School Journal and other educational periodicals, are important and I bring them in where pertinent, but their full inclusion would rob the thesis of its focus and trivialise the significance of the conventions of specifically historiographical communities, both institutional and discursive.
27 Ibid., pp. 77-8.
28 Denis Glover, Short Reflection on the Present State of Literature in This Country, Christchurch, nd . Alan Mulgan, J. H. E. Schroder, and C. A. Marris edited literary pages in newspapers; Marris also edited a poetry annual.
29 A significant account that makes this assumption is Sinclair, Destiny Apart, p. 241. For more casual examples, see Marcia Stenson, 'History in New Zealand Schools', New Zealand Journal of History, 24, 2 (October 1990), p. 174; Tony Nightingale, 'Shirley Tunnicliff: Nelson Historian', Phanzine, 2, 2 (July 1996), pp. 5-6.
30 Gibbons, 'Non-fiction', p. 29.
33 Gibbons, 'Non-fiction', p. 104 (italics added).
34 For a New Zealand example, see M. P. K. Sorrenson, Maori Origins and Migrations: The Genesis of Some Pakeha Myths and Legends, Auckland, 1979, especially p. 58.
40 William Baucke, Where the White Man Treads, 2nd edn, Auckland, 1928. For biographies, see Sheila Natusch, 'Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Baucke', and David Colquhoun, 'James Cowan', both in Claudia Orange, ed., The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 3, Auckland, 1996.
41 See Dominick LaCapra, History and Criticism, Ithaca, 1983, pp. 137-8.
43 Discussions of historians' 'narratives', and the application of generic terms such as 'tragedy' and 'comedy' to works of history, owe a great deal, of course, to Hayden White's Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-century Europe, Baltimore, 1973, and Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism, Baltimore, 1978. However, as should be apparent by now, I do not agree with White's early insistence on the determinative nature of such 'modes of emplotment'.