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Victoria University of Wellington 1899 ~ 1999 A History

[ten] — Soft science and hard art

page 242

Soft science and hard art

IN 1954 JOHN McCreary, lecturer in the School of Social Science, previously a junior lecturer in psychology, later professor of social administration (and then of social work), surveyed the state of ‘social science’ at the college. He included in his field the departments of Education, Economics and Political Science. He might have added Geography and Law. It was a scene of promise. The School of Social Science was newly founded. Psychology had just gained its independence from Philosophy. Funds for research (courtesy of the Carnegie Corporation) were looked forward to. ‘The social sciences in New Zealand are on the move’, and this college leading them. But he regretted the loss, symbolised by the death of Tommy Hunter the year before, of their ‘common bond’ in philosophy.1 Just as some in the natural and physical sciences worried about the fragmentation of their field, McCreary looked unsurely at the unwieldiness of social science. Indeed, ‘the social sciences’ arguably describes less a field of academic activity than a style.

Victoria never had (until 1998) a faculty called social science, but rather a jigsaw identified as arts – and most easily discussed as such, in pieces. They tell a coherent story, however, or at least illuminate common themes: in their tendency to become part of other disciplines, departments or faculties; the growth of applied social sciences (in the 1970s and 1980s); the place of professional training in the university; and the nature of the liberal arts degree. There is the glaring disjunction too between the promising development of social science in the university at a time when its vice-chancellor was pursuing its future in big science and technology.

To a real extent, in fact, the ‘synthesising’ influence attributed to Hunter was continued in the 1950s and 1960s by Ernest Beaglehole, who had succeeded him in the chair of psychology in 1948 and headed this department until 1965. (The psychology course was separated out from philosophy in 1949 and the department's name changed from Mental and Moral Philosophy to Psychology and Philosophy; page 243 they became separate, and philosophy gained its own chair, in 1951.) Beaglehole's work lay at the border of psychology and anthropology; he himself called it the study of ‘culture-in-personality’.2 He was in America in the 1930s studying with the likes of Peter Buck, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict and Edward Sapir, doing his PhD at Yale in cultural anthropology on the Hopi Indians of Arizona. He conducted fieldwork in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru; made studies of five Polynesian cultures; and published pioneering, sometimes controversial research on the Maori. He is said to have disliked the term ‘inter-disciplinary study’, but this may be to quibble over terminology.3 In a five-year plan for psychology prepared in 1950 he described developments at Harvard, Cornell and Chicago (and to a lesser extent in England, at Tavistock and Liverpool) which he hoped Victoria, however modestly, might follow: ‘over the next five years we at Victoria should not establish more chairs of this and that, but … we should promote by every possible means cross-disciplinary teaching and research’. More simply, he wanted more staff, teaching and laboratory space, and the latest in equipment: ‘a good wire recorder’ and a one-way mirror. And he hoped to make research ‘a living thing in the work of the Department’. He had turned down approaches from British and American universities, he informed the principal, but would not regret his decision to stay in New Zealand if adequate resources were provided for research.4

The inadequacy of funding for social science research has been a perennial complaint in New Zealand universities. While University Grants Committee research funding explicitly favoured the physical sciences and their expensive pieces of apparatus, the social science (and other) departments were in the main left to rely on the more meagre resources of internal research committees.5 Perhaps the bias went further than that. The Americans, they had told Beaglehole, were keen
Ernest Beaglehole, professor of psychology. ATL F19983 1/1

Ernest Beaglehole, professor of psychology. ATL F19983 1/1

page 244 to send social scientists to New Zealand under the recently established Fulbright programme, but the local Fulbright committee had ‘indicated a strong policy preference for scientists in agriculture and related subjects’.6 An overture to the Carnegie Corporation was already being planned down in University House in 1949, and came to fruition in 1953: $60,000 over five years for social science research (to be distributed among the four colleges by the University of New Zealand). In the meantime Victoria's Professorial Board convened its own social science research committee. Plans were made for a series of collaborative ‘Studies in Contemporary New Zealand Society’ in the fields of economics, psychology, law, education, political science and public administration.7 This did not proceed; and McCreary's suggestion that they all take a year off to think about the future of social science research was also a little optimistic. However, the Carnegie Social Science Research Fund was to make an appreciable contribution for a time to the college's work in this direction (as, in fact, did the flow of Fulbright visitors).

Notable in psychology were the Rakau studies, a series of investigations into ‘the effects of technological change on four New Zealand Maori communities – an area study of folk culture under stress’,8 which were conducted (around Murupara) by several staff and graduate students under Beaglehole's direction. For James and Jane Ritchie (Beaglehole's daughter), lecturer and PhD student respectively, this began an important and prolific career in the study of modern Maori society and family structure: in the 1960s they carried the Beaglehole influence to Waikato.9 The Rakau studies were five of the Psychology Department's occasional publications series: 29 were published between 1952 and 1983, but 24 of them before 1960. Over half before 1966 – during the ‘Beaglehole years’ – were on Maori topics, including controversial Fulbright visitor David Ausubel's Maori Youth (1961). The professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois had made headlines while here in 1957–58 with his comments on the bodgie phenomenon (and drawn a peeved response from ‘D.A.P.’ in Salient, who told the ‘American so-called Educator’ that he should take his ‘psychiatric methods’ back to the country which enjoyed the highest juvenile delinquency rate in the world: Ausubel was offended, Beaglehole aghast).10 There were also several opinion surveys, conducted mostly by undergraduate students as part of their course requirements, with a conspicuous interest in New Zealanders' attitudes to the rest of the world.11 The Beaglehole imprint on the department's work in this period – situating psychology at the interface of sociology and anthropology – was not exclusive. C.J. Adcock, appointed to the staff back in 1947, worked on psychological testing and factor-analytic research. But it was clearly predominant.

Not that Beaglehole himself was concerned to develop only social psychology. He was anxious to introduce clinical psychology – the study of what a later professor described as the ‘troubled and troublesome’12 – which was then a fast-developing field overseas, especially in America, and unrepresented in New Zealand; and he wanted to re-establish the children's psychological clinic that Hunter had run on Saturday mornings between 1926 and 1942. In 1953, with support from the professors of education and social science, he proposed that the college purchase page 245 the late principal's house in Clermont Terrace to be the Hunter Memorial Children's Centre. This did not happen (although the Hunter home was acquired by the university, and housed the School of Social Science for many years). When the establishment of a psychological clinic, or child guidance centre, was raised again in the 1960s it was rejected as an activity more appropriate for a hospital than a university. An appointment in this field was first made in 1958. But it was not until the 1970s and 1980s that clinical psychology developed as the Victoria Psychology Department's particular strength.

The newly autonomous subject had proved popular: enrolments in psychology doubled between 1949 and 1953, while the college roll overall fell slightly. Despite Hunter's pioneering intentions, comparatively few students took psychology for a BSc (although more did so after the introduction of the ‘type B’ BSc in 1960).13 Its affiliation with the science faculty as well as the arts from the late 1960s, though, had all to do with funding. The staff grew more steadily than the students (doubling between 1950 and 1973, when there were 10).

A second chair had been advertised twice, but not filled, before Ernest Beaglehole died in October 1965. Adcock, now associate professor, was appointed acting professor for a year, but not to the chair when it was filled in 1967.14 It went to L.B. Brown, a local and London graduate who had been Beaglehole's first full-time demonstrator in 1949, a specialist in the psychology of religion. In his inaugural lecture Brown commented on changing fashions in a discipline exceptionally subject to fashion, on the behavioural revolution and the application of experimental and laboratory methods (‘Rats were definitely in for the Behaviourists’), and on a concomitant shift of psychologists' attention from personal to public problems – its shift as a discipline from a branch of philosophy (‘mental philosophy’) to a kind of science.15

The inaugural theme of his successor in 1975, A.R. Forbes, was that psychology must above all be rigorously scientific (not all of his colleagues, in Forbes' opinion, were). Forbes conducted his research on driver perception and the effectiveness of road markings and road signs with the sponsorship of the National Roads Board (a collaboration which brought a research fellowship and $80,000 worth of equipment for measuring eye movements). Meanwhile, the second chair had finally been offered, in 1970, to clinical psychologist and student counsellor Tony Taylor. Twenty years after Ernest Beaglehole had recommended the establishment of clinical psychology in the university as a matter of urgency, it was still in its infancy, commanding the attention of only 9% of New Zealand psychology academics, by Taylor's calculation – with the result that his own work was (and continued to be) better known overseas than at home. His professional background included probation work in Britain, and 10 years with the Department of Justice combined with part-time teaching at Victoria, before he took up a lectureship in 1961. He had continued to teach when appointed in 1964 as the university's first student counsellor, a job he had been doing voluntarily since 1961. (Beaglehole had seen this as a proper function of a psychology department.) Taylor's research interests then included psychotherapy, transsexualism and transvestism. Later he would page 246
Freud and friends: the Psychology Department rats. M.D. King photo

Freud and friends: the Psychology Department rats. M.D. King photo

transfer his study of social isolates from the confinement of prison to the lonely expanse of Antarctica; an investigation of the effects of stress on the Mt Erebus air-crash recovery workers in 1980 stimulated in turn an ongoing interest in the psychological aftermath of disaster.16 On the teaching side, a two-year MA (Applied) in clinical psychology was launched in 1976 (one subject option in a new degree introduced that year, designed to develop applied graduate studies in ‘non-science’ subjects). This became the department's prestige graduate programme; it was highly regarded outside the university and highly competitive. Six students were accepted into the programme each year (from up to three times as many applicants); 59 had graduated by 1991. But it succeeded, perhaps, at the expense of a broader ‘research culture’ in the department, measured by low numbers of MAs and PhDs.17

The vacillation over filling the second chair in the 1960s had been due in part to a desire to make an appointment in experimental psychology, recognised then as the department's weakest field. Experiments in animal learning had begun in 1952 with a colony of white rats (‘affectionately named after famous psychologists and one can imagine the confusion when Freud gave birth to a litter’).18 Over time the rats contributed their share to the personal tensions which, from the mid–1960s, plagued an under-resourced, badly accommodated department – for it was arguably more so than most – especially after a breeding programme was started in 1968 and ‘nauseating, foetid’ odours permeated the eighth-floor studies of the Rankine Brown building.19 Productive research was done in cognitive psychology and animal learning in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But eventually animal work was abandoned, and with it physiological psychology from the department's undergraduate teaching programme – a conspicuous gap, along with psychometrics which had been C.J. Adcock's field. But experimental and laboratory psychology was not all about rats. A computer-controlled psycho-physics laboratory page 247 was installed in a Clermont Terrace house in 1978 (and became the envy of the rest of the department): there two staff conducted research on visual function, auditory psychology, decision theory and artificial intelligence. Other staff specialisms in the department included blood pressure and stress, and social conformity. Ngaire Adcock carried on work in personality-factor testing and Reciprocal Inhibition Therapy. She had joined the department in 1964 when Taylor was appointed student counsellor (the job she had wanted), became a senior lecturer in 1972, and for the length of her 24-year career in the department was its only full-time woman member. It had been, she reflected when she retired in 1988, a lonely and frustrating experience.

A review of the Psychology Department carried out in 1991, on the eve of the retirement of its two professors, pulled no punches in describing the ‘cumulative effects of almost a quarter century of internal disputes among its senior staff, of relative neglect, and of relegation to low status by successive university administrations’: Victoria's was the smallest, most poorly resourced, and ‘widely regarded by its peers as the least effective’ of the country's four university psychology departments.20 It was a sad contrast to the promise of the Hunter/Beaglehole years. Equally frank was the dean of arts who a few years earlier described the depth of antagonism among the staff as ‘frightening even by the standards which, unfortunately, too often apply in academic life’.21 Perhaps, as some would argue, entrenched academic divisions are endemic to departments of psychology (a science in which there is no general paradigm, no agreed taxonomy of behaviour). Likewise, personal feuds in other departments have hardly been unknown. But this appears to have been an extreme example. A related, unhappy theme of this department's story is the struggle for recognition as a laboratory science and for the resources that a laboratory science requires.22 Yet psychology as a profession now was thriving. The demand for clinical psychology graduates was booming at a time when the number of health professionals generally was falling. Industrial psychology, which Leslie Hearnshaw had pioneered at Victoria in the 1940s, founding the DSIR's psychology division before going to the chair at Liverpool after the war, had been allowed to lapse in the 1980s but was reintroduced in response to strong student demand. The business sector was a growing field of employment for psychologists as well as commerce graduates. Undergraduate enrolments overall were rising. The ‘New Age’ culture of the 1980s and '90s had given psychology a new cachet.


‘Sociology,’ Victoria's first professor in the subject, giving his inaugural lecture in 1966 and quoting from the Chambers Encyclopaedia of 1882, ‘is a somewhat barbarous name that has of late been used to denote the study of the origin, organisation and development of human society’; but, he was pleased to say, it appeared to have come to stay.23 Nevertheless, uncertainty about what to call itself continued to afflict this department, which had already been known as social studies, sociology and social work, before it was established as the School of Social Science in 1949.

Sociology for the BA had been part of the original plan – and was still but a page 248 plan when the first professor, David Marsh, left for the University of Nottingham in 1953, having successfully launched the Diploma of Social Science, aka social work. Casework was the core of the two-year course. Marsh employed ‘good humour, a little bullying, a lot of energy, and an extensive knowledge of rugby football’ to secure the co-operation of government departments and community welfare agencies in arranging practical placements. Eighteen subjects were covered in the classroom with assistance from other departments, while the Psychology Department for a time also assisted with the selection of candidates for the course, applying ‘a formidable test battery’.24 Victoria would continue to enjoy a monopoly over the training of professional social workers until 1975, when the recently established New Zealand Social Work Training Council invited other universities into the field.

The school was staffed mainly from Britain and its curriculum based on current British practice. But in the 1950s it was at the forefront of developments in social work education on both sides of the Atlantic, in its principle of generic training, and in combining the academic approach of the British with the more practical orientation of the Americans. After Marsh came W.G. (Bill) Minn, with a degree from Cambridge and a practitioner background in probation, including 11 years in London's East End: a reserved Englishman to Marsh's ebullient Yorkshireman, and with an individual approach which contrasted with Marsh's orientation to social planning and legislation. John McCreary, joining the school from psychology in 1953, and later following Minn in the chair, contributed social psychology and statistics to the school's teaching strengths, research in the sociology of alcohol, gerontology and criminology (and to the university at large a long-term interest in the Pacific).

From the beginning research was an integral part of the diploma programme, not only to give the students interviewing and survey skills but also to establish the academic credibility of the school. A small thesis was required, and from 1957 participation in a group project – an American adoption, facilitated by the creation of a full-time research assistant position (usually filled by recent graduates from other social science departments). Many of the projects were commissioned, usually by government departments. (Being alone in the field, there was pressure to do more than the school was able at first, and ‘some ill-informed criticism’ as a result.)25 Prominent among the school's early research ventures were its ‘old people's surveys’ (in Marsh's phrase), six surveys of accommodation conditions of the aged undertaken for the departments of Health and Social Security; and three pioneering community surveys, initiated by local organisations and funded by Carnegie grants. The first, Hawera survey (1954) was a joint adventure of the school and the Psychology and Education departments, and directed by psychology lecturer Athol Congalton. The published survey was prefaced by essays on ‘The role of the sociologist’ – H.C.D. Somerset in imagined conversation with a Hawera resident explaining why sociology was a science; the value of social surveys explained by Fulbright scholar R.J. Havinghurst (professor of education at the University of Chicago); a description of the school; and a foreword by Ernest Beaglehole.26 The page 249 interdisciplinary theme is only one to observe here. Sociological research was new and strange – not only in Hawera. The surveys of the aged, for example, were attacked in Parliament as an invasion of privacy.27 A few years earlier an investigation into class consciousness among adolescents by Congalton had brought a shocked reaction from the eminently shockable New Zealand Truth.28

How far such incidents expressed a deep-seated hostility in the New Zealand character to the sociologist's project – the asking of uncomfortable questions, the questioning of comfortable beliefs – and the extent to which this, along with the opposition of Oxbridge traditionalists, contributed to the rather late development of sociology in New Zealand has been a subject of debate within the academy. The alternative view is that the chief obstacle was the difficulty in finding staff in a ‘world-wide sellers’ market'.29 Victoria was the first to try. Sociology I started in 1957, developed from the Contemporary Social Problems paper in the diploma course and taught by J.H. Robb, who became the university's first professor of sociology in 1966.30 (For many years he would also play a valued role in the delicate job of convenor of the Professorial Board's Accommodation Advisory Committee.) He was a Beaglehole graduate, studying undergraduate history and psychology, doing an MA in psychology after the war and then a PhD in sociology at the London School of Economics with a thesis on working-class anti-Semitism. In London he also worked for an experimental Family Discussion Bureau (practical experience that qualified him for the Victoria job) and as a researcher at the cutting-edge Tavistock Institute.

The romantic story of sociology ‘battling desperately for survival against the hostility of the academic establishment’ hardly applies to Victoria.31 Robb found only support, particularly from Education, Geography and Political Science, and a supply of basic sociological and anthropology texts in the college library acquired in the 1930s and 1940s by Hunter, Beaglehole, Lipson et al. McCreary contributed methodology to the new course, while Robb's wife Margaret, herself a sociology graduate, marked the essays (the wife as essay marker and tutorial taker was an important adjunct to the college staff in these years). Second- and third-year papers were approved for 1962, but not introduced until 1964 and 1965 (honours in 1967) while the search went on for suitable staff. The Bay of Pigs crisis produced a flash flood of applicants from the East Coast of the United States whose suddenly changed circumstances had allowed them to pursue a long-held ambition to come to New Zealand. (‘It became the joke around the department that we should ask the university to award Fidel Castro an honorary doctorate for services to NZ sociology.’)32 In due course an American was appointed, but stayed only three years; after him Miriam Gilson, a young New Zealander then doing demographic research in Canberra.

Sociology was, unsurprisingly, a hit. But it peaked quickly in the early 1970s – when sociology and social work were ‘now “with it”, “on the beam”, “groovey”, “turned on”’ – falling back to about 1960s numbers in the 1980s.33 Its initial popularity, though, prompted the introduction of the transitional certificate, which was subsequently adopted by other departments, allowing students who had taken page 250 an undergraduate course in another subject to move into sociology (say) without having to start again. In contrast to the British-based social work course, sociology in the 1950s and into the '60s was predominantly American: all the textbooks came from there (and Robb, although schooled in London, had had an American supervisor). Later the development of the discipline in Britain would trickle down to this way.

Having pioneered the field, it must be admitted that in sociology Victoria did not maintain an edge. The mainstream British–American tradition has been supplemented at times by ‘various types of Marxism, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology and labelling theory’.34 There was a strong component of demography from the outset, contributed by both Robb and McCreary, and reinforced by Gilson, who also developed the teaching of urban sociology and the family (her PhD thesis on the New Zealand family and social change launched the department's occasional papers series in 1978). Robb had had an idea of focusing the department's research effort on the welfare state. In applied research, he believed, New Zealand sociology could make a contribution of international theoretical importance – another take on the familiar ‘New Zealand as a social laboratory’ theme – and Victoria's location made the state its obvious subject. But the reality of building up a department hardly permitted such a considered approach and its research output has been more diverse, with few very obvious highlights. David Pearson's Johnsonville (1980) was a successor not to the department's early community surveys but to Somerset's 1938 Littledene, and equally a seminal work. In the field of family and gender its published work has included sometime lecturer and research assistant Alison Gray's several ‘popular titles’, including The Smith Women (1981) and The Jones Men (1983). The department's second professor of sociology (appointed in 1976), Michael Hill, brought a quite different interest, from London, in the sociology of monasticism, and pursued research on religion and deviance.

The semantic history of this department is a complicated tale. In 1969 the School of Social Science became the Department of Social Administration and Sociology. This was in part to recognise the growth of sociology, and in part to avoid the confusion caused by the appearance of ‘schools of social science’ elsewhere, not to mention Waikato University's Bachelor of Social Sciences, which was not, as some assumed, another professional social work qualification, just as schools of social science were not normally sociology or social work departments. The choice of the term social administration followed British usage (there recognising the discipline pioneered by Richard Titmuss at the LSE). An MA in social administration was introduced, with options in social administration or social work, and a lecturer (Avery Jack) appointed to develop undergraduate courses. These especially attracted part-time and older students. Lack of staff, however, frustrated the plan to develop a major. Meanwhile, in 1972 the department had been renamed the Department of Sociology and Social Work – thus reinstating the term that had offended Peter Fraser 25 years earlier. Now, ‘social administration’, it seemed, was disliked or misunderstood by students, employers, government departments, the page 251 New Zealand Association of Social Workers and the academic community alike. (‘Graduates who have sought employment overseas have reported difficulty in having a diploma in Social Science taught by a Department of Social Administration accepted as a professional qualification in social work.’)35 So the Diploma in Social Science became a Diploma in Social Work, and two separately named MAs were identified: social administration and social work. This, it was pleasingly noted, was in line with current London practice. The range of qualifications in the field once known inclusively as ‘social science’ was now expanding beyond Victoria too, as other universities established theirs.36

In due course, in 1990, social administration would give way to social policy, and a major was finally fashioned to complement the growth of policy studies elsewhere in the university and of the ‘policy analyst’ as a breed of public servant. By now the department's panoply of qualifications also included an MA (Applied) in social work, and an MA (Applied) in recreation administration, which was created at the request of the Council for Recreation and Sport in 1977 and transferred from the Recreation Centre to this department's responsibility in 1989. It did not administer the short-lived Diploma in Social Science Research, which was introduced in 1987 in response to a report from the National Research Advisory Council bemoaning the paucity of graduate social research skills, but made a major contribution to it.

At least, though, the physical progress of sociology at Victoria is a simple story: from Clermont Terrace at the northern edge of the campus, via the Von Zedlitz building, to Fairlie Terrace at the south.


Academic expediency gave sociology a decade and a half's head start over anthropology at this university. Anthropology has, however, a prehistory going back almost as far as the college itself, if we note a clutch of early students who followed distinguished careers in anthropology elsewhere: H.D. Skinner (the college's first custodian of library books) at Otago; Diamond Jenness in Canada; Harry Hawthorn and Cyril Belshaw at British Columbia; Reo Fortune (husband of Margaret Mead) at Cambridge; Derek Freeman (Mead's nemesis). And Ernest Beaglehole, who brought American cultural anthropology back here. But in the first few decades of the college's life New Zealand anthropology existed outside the university, with the ‘amateur’ ethnographers of the Polynesian Society, the Turnbull Library and the Dominion Museum. Up on the hill, Beaglehole taught a course on ‘Man and Culture: an introduction to social anthropology’ in 1939, and offered a postgraduate paper on ‘Ethnopsychology’ in 1951. That a department was not established until the 1960s was decided by the deal just then brokered by Hunter, which secured social science for Victoria while anthropology (and with it the Polynesian Society) went to Auckland.

It was not long before this arrangement was under siege. A conference of Maori students in August 1955 – ‘a weekend of competitive sports and discussion’ at the Ngati Poneke marae to which Victoria's Maori students invited their Auckland page 252 counterparts – asked the college Council to appoint lecturers in Maori studies and anthropology, ‘in the interests of scholarship and mutual citizenship’.37 A handful of Victoria students each year were taking Maori at Auckland extramurally. Beaglehole convened a committee which recommended the introduction of both subjects. The college had just begun an adult education class in Maori language, they noted; and as well as complementing Victoria's existing social science field, anthropology would ‘dovetail very nicely’ with the plans just then being laid for the development of Asian studies. The trusty Carnegie Corporation might be approached for funding (it had recently made such a grant to the University of Western Australia), along with the Department of Maori Affairs. The latter, however, turned down the Council's application, because the subjects were already taught elsewhere.

Surprisingly perhaps, neither anthropology nor Maori studies was included in the college's submission to the grants committee in 1958, despite the visit that year of Raymond Firth, expatriate New Zealand professor of anthropology at LSE, and some evident Council interest. It waited until a quinquennial round later, when Maori students and the Students' Association renewed their request. An ad hoc committee of the arts faculty which reported in 1963 on the performance of Maori students – who were then between 1% and 2% of Victoria's roll – while not going so far as to recommend the establishment of anthropology and Maori studies suggested that such a department might provide a ‘point of identification’ for the students, as it did in Auckland (‘as “natural” a beginning for them at the University as English is for non-Maori students in the Arts degree’).38 The arts faculty in its quinquennial submission now bid for a full department of anthropology; and the establishment of a chair was approved for 1964, for appointment to which ‘some specialisation in the Polynesian field’ would be preferred.39

Filling this chair, as with many appointments in these years, was more easily decided than done. It was twice offered and twice turned down.40 In the meantime, in response to continued student pressure, it was agreed (with reluctance) to go ahead with Maori. Ernest Beaglehole was designated temporary head of a department of anthropology which did not quite exist, and Joan Metge was appointed senior lecturer ‘with special reference to Maori Studies’ at the end of 1964. She was an associate professor in just a few years, and 20 years later would be made a dame for services to anthropology which had included two standard works (The Maoris of New Zealand (1967) and its revised edition in 1976) and extended research on cross-cultural communication.

Metge had done her postgraduate work in the 1950s under Raymond Firth. To this British social anthropology tradition was added the European, structuralist influence and frisson of intellectual excitement brought to Victoria by its first professor of anthropology, Jan Pouwer. Firth recommended the appointment of Pouwer, a Dutchman strongly influenced by Lévi-Strauss and French structural linguistics. He arrived in 1966, and Anthropology I started in 1967. Thus for two years the department had taught only Maori studies, which was both more and page 253
Anthropology lecturer Bernie Kernot (front) and Maori studies professor Hirini Mead at a Tohu Maoritanga hui on the university marae, 1987

Anthropology lecturer Bernie Kernot (front) and Maori studies professor Hirini Mead at a Tohu Maoritanga hui on the university marae, 1987

less than anthropology. Joan Metge and Bill Parker – well known as the country's first Maori broadcaster and an adult education tutor, from which department he was seconded – taught one course along with Maori reading knowledge in 1965.41 Te Kapunga (Koro) Dewes, a noted exponent of Maori poetry and oratory (like Parker, of Ngati Porou, and Te Aute educated) was appointed lecturer the following year, from adult education in Auckland; Bernie Kernot, whose interest would be in Maori material arts, was appointed in 1967. By 1971 Maori language and literature had been extended to stage three, again following student representations,42 and anthropology (which included Maori society and culture) to honours level. Both met a keen demand. Initial enrolments in anthropology were ‘unexpectedly high’.43 Maori language enrolments, in the elementary classes especially, rose rapidly, aside from a sudden, temporary fall when the foreign language requirement was removed from the BA regulations in 1970. From this point, the institutional stories of anthropology and Maori begin to take separate paths.

The university's recently convened Academic Development Committee took stock of Maori studies in 1973. They consulted the universities of Massey, which had just introduced an extramural Maori language course in 1972, and Waikato which had just established its Centre for Maori Studies (after a long battle, spearheaded by Jim Ritchie, with the University Grants Committee and defensive opposition from Auckland). They concluded that Victoria had a distinctive contribution to make if it concentrated on language and literature.44 The reasons for affirming the place of Maori in the university now were more than compelling. A rapid expansion of Maori language teaching in schools was under way, and courses began in the teachers' colleges in 1974. Victoria's Te Reo Maori Society, page 254 formed in 1970 by the stage-two class, itself played an instrumental role in the movement to revive a dying language, instigating a Maori Language Day (later Week) in 1972, and continuing to advocate its official recognition and use.45 A sub-committee of the faculties of arts and languages and literature advanced both political and academic reasons when it proposed in April 1973 the creation of a separate department of Maori language and literature, an oral research unit and a marae: it observed the growth of the academic study of ‘oral literature’ and the place of Maori within this context of international scholarship, as well as ‘obvious’ student interest, the rising theme of multiculturalism and the ‘rights and needs of the Maori people’.46 The Academic Development Committee did not go quite so far, recommending the ‘substantial expansion and development’ of Maori studies within a renamed Department of Anthropology and Maori, and the establishment of a chair. A campus marae was ‘desirable but not essential’.47

Language remained the core of the Maori studies teaching programme, but increasingly within the framework of a broader study of Maori written and oral literature and material arts. In this it was seen to differ from the Auckland department's more strongly linguistic focus. In 1975 Hirini Mead, of Ngati Awa, and then at the anthropology department of McMaster University, Ontario, was appointed to New Zealand's first chair of Maori studies. McMaster had hosted the first international symposium on the visual art of Oceania in 1974, the proceedings of which Mead subsequently edited. He also edited (with Bernie Kernot) those of the second symposium held at Victoria in 1978, and the catalogue of the landmark Te Maori exhibition which Mead accompanied on its four-city American tour in 1984 – and which, in his own words, ‘put us on the art map of the world’.48

Te Herenga Waka, 36 Kelburn Parade

Te Herenga Waka, 36 Kelburn Parade

Following the professor's arrival in 1977 the Maori studies courses were restructured, graduate ones introduced, and a new and unique undergraduate course established on culture and technology (which included a practical requirement, the replication of an object being studied). The department began building its own artefacts collection, with a grant from the Todd Foundation and recognition as a collector of antiquities under the 1975 Antiquities Act. The establishment of a scholarship for honours study promised to encourage the development of graduate page 255 work (but postgraduate enrolments remained low). The formal separation of Anthropology and Maori seemed inevitable now. Maori Studies gained its independence in 1981.49 Already they effectively operated autonomously, in different buildings (since 1979) and teaching distinct programmes, although separately they were small: four staff in Maori Studies, seven in Anthropology, with one appointment (Kernot) shared.

The establishment of a marae further enhanced (but also complicated) Maori Studies' distinct identity, and enlarged its role. The marae was opened in 1980 at 36 Kelburn Parade – since 1969 the university chaplaincy, Ramsay House, and formerly the home of Archdeacon Kingi Ihaka, the Maori pastor of Wellington. It was named Te Herenga Waka, the anchorage of canoes, after some debate over whether the name should claim a local – geographical or tribal – association. From the outset it was intended to be inclusively a university marae, although the extent to which it was would later become a point of debate. In 1984 it moved to temporary premises further up the road to make way for the new commerce building, and a fundraising campaign was launched for a purpose-designed Maori Studies Centre there, forming part of the Kelburn Parade ‘precinct’ in the campus beautification project, its centrepiece to be a new carved meeting house. Te Tumu Herenga Waka was formally opened at a dawn ceremony in December 1986.50 Among its several roles the marae was a teaching tool, ‘as laboratories are to chemistry and physics’,51 particularly for the newly developed Tohu Maoritanga, a two-year diploma combining existing undergraduate courses in language, culture and society and two new tikanga courses, marae practice and waiata. Twenty-four students enrolled for the diploma in its first year, 1986.

Although it aimed to draw a new constituency of Maori students into the university community, the Tohu Maoritanga conformed to the traditional focus of Maori studies at Victoria and elsewhere: language and culture. But there were signs this was changing. A recently developed course on Maori and science, and the Accountancy Department's stage-two paper on Maori resource management developed by Whatarangi Winiata, suggested a larger conception of Maori studies in the university as ‘an area of academic endeavour encompassing a number of disciplines while retaining a distinct Maori orientation with relevance to contemporary Maori development’.52 From the 1980s, other parts of the university (with varying degrees of commitment and success) responded to the newly recognised obligations of the government under the Treaty of Waitangi. These developments would have implications for the position and responsibility of Maori Studies. To some extent it was the old question of the place and scope of ‘area studies’; and there remained those who disputed that there was a discipline of Maori studies at all. There was a political aspect, too, that is made explicit by the work of the department's research unit, Te Tira Whakaemi Korero, established in 1988. Very soon it was engaged exclusively in tribal development and Treaty settlement research. (But it was not only in Maori Studies that the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process challenged academics' traditional views of their profession.)

Anthropology at Victoria exclusive of Maori studies has been conspicuously page 256
Opening of Te Tumu Te Herenga Waka, December 1986

Opening of Te Tumu Te Herenga Waka, December 1986

international. There are exceptions to this statement: Joan Metge's work; Peter Webster's Rua and the Maori Millennium (1979); and studies of the social background of Stewart Island fishermen, Jewish ethnicity in New Zealand, the food habits of Pacific Islanders living here, and a contribution to a feasibility study for Wellington's Manners Mall. But the large majority of Anthropology's staff have come from outside New Zealand, and their research interests have remained there – principally in Oceania, Europe and Asia. Not that this department has been in all senses unconscious of indigenous connections. In 1984 its new premises in Wai-te-ata Road were named Jenness House, and it received that year Reo Fortune's collection of New Guinean artefacts; when it moved again it named a Reo Fortune room.

Pouwer bequeathed strong and continuing theoretical emphases on structuralism and semiotics, in contrast to the Auckland department's founding professor (Ralph Piddington) who had studied under social anthropologists Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. The department at Victoria maintained an exclusive focus on cultural and social anthropology, different again from Auckland where social anthropology was later complemented by archaeology, and from Otago which kept to its founding father H.D. Skinner's interest in archaeology and prehistory. Victoria has never taught archaeology or prehistory. Pouwer returned to the Netherlands in 1976, by which time the department's permanent staff on the anthropology side included two Americans and a Briton, while Webster had crossed over from the Geography Department to pursue interests in Maori millennialism page 257 and Nepal. Pouwer's successor, Ann Chowning, was also an American (a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, like a more famous one): a graduate of Bryn Mawr and the University of Pennsylvania, she came to Victoria from Papua New Guinea (via Columbia and ANU) and continued to research in that field.

Appointments in the next decade contributed interests in the Russian Mennonites and Greece. Such a diversity of personal as well as theoretical backgrounds in the department did not make for an especially cohesive one. Yet its cosmopolitanism was not by accident. It is in obvious contrast to the necessarily local focus of its cousin Maori Studies; and was by now out of step with the prevailing national climate for scholarship and research. It was a brave Anthropology Department that asserted, in 1991, that its ‘primary focus is international’ and deplored ‘recent attempts to reallocate research funding to a narrow set of parochial topics of supposedly practical scientific value to New Zealand’.53


Political science professor R.S. Parker, taking in British and American institutions on his refresher leave in 1951–52, like many of his colleagues also saw the American sociological approach as the way Victoria should go. We ‘shall be merely ostriches,’ he wrote to the principal, ‘if we go on without raising our heads from Plato or Austin or even Lord Lindsay, and pretending to teach students about the political process. Anyhow I hope at the end of this trip I'll have a more solid foundation of know-how in social science, on which to stand together with people like Ernest Beaglehole or Somerset or David Marsh and their students, and get some inter-disciplinary work done in seeing how the New Zealand polity operates and the whys and wherefores of the civic acts and attitudes of its citizens.’54 This was a definition of political science not only as a social science, but as one with a specifically local brief.

The Diploma of Public Administration had dominated the work of the School of Political Science and Public Administration in its tender years, and was now just getting into its stride after the intervention of the war. It was a unique, small but prestigious programme, ‘recognised abroad’, the School boasted in 1959, ‘as being of outstanding interest and significance’, despite its explicitly parochial application: to educate New Zealand's public service.55 It firmly established its credibility despite some continuing scepticism both inside and outside the university about the status of public administration as an academic subject. A significant group of the diploma graduates would find their way back to the university as ‘academics’. Among them were Ken Scott, the head of the school (just) when he died suddenly in July 1961, and another member of the founding class of '39, T.R. Smith; Ray Polaschek, seconded back from Transport in 1955–57 when he wrote (with a Carnegie grant) Government Administration in New Zealand, for a long time the only general study of the subject other than L.C. Webb's brief centennial survey; and John Roberts, the first professor. Treasury secretary Henry Lang also made his way back, rather later (when public administration had become public policy).

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Public administration made the crossover from the diploma to the BA more successfully than social administration: it was introduced at stage one in 1959, and eventually offered as both a BA and BCA major and (with some resistance) as a postgraduate stream.56 The creation of the chair in 1966 accompanied the school's inclusion in the enlarged faculty of commerce and administration and its courses in the new BCA degree. The partnering of government and business administration that this rearrangement effected was not a total innovation, mind you. Among the external activities of the school in the 1950s – mostly seminars and short courses for the New Zealand Institute of Public Administration and the Public Service Commission – was its contribution to an executive management course jointly run by the Institutes of Public Administration and Management. Parker had had this in mind when he investigated business schools, including Harvard's and Henley, as well as public administration and political science programmes in 1952.

In contrast to the gradual emergence of sociology out of social science, political science was there at the beginning, initially as just two introductory papers (‘CPI’, comparative political institutions, and ‘HPT’, the history of political thought), but a major and postgraduate option from 1950. Victoria led the way in building a specialist political science department in this decade. At other New Zealand universities the subject remained in its traditional association with history, and separate departments of political science were not established until the 1960s. Victoria also remained the biggest: with 16 full-time staff by the end of the 1970s to the others' 10 or fewer. At the beginning of the 1950s, though, they were few. Joachim Kahn from Munich, who had penned that eloquent memo to the principal in 1953 about the school's army-surplus accommodation, left presently after seven years at the college, as they had been expecting (but not wanted) him to. His first ambition had been the stage, which his father forbade: he ‘could hold a party in fits by mimicking someone reciting Shakespeare in a Hungarian accent’, but his heart was not in political science teaching.57 His colleague Ralph Brookes was a

Four political science professors: Leslie Lipson, Margaret Clark, Robert Parker and Stephen Milne at the 50th anniversary of the School of Political Science and Public Administration, May 1989

page 259 man of another character: ‘careful, unflamboyant, precise, scrupulous’, an Englishman (it was Ralph pronounced the English way) with a London degree and a lasting commitment to the job.58 He was appointed to a lectureship in 1950 and stayed to become professor in 1962. In 1953 he went to Stanford and Columbia on a Rockefeller fellowship to study Russian history and Soviet politics, which he taught from Russian literature as well as politics texts. Local government was his other field.59

Between Parker and Brookes the chair was held for five years by Stephen Milne, who had been at Bristol and The Hague (the Netherlands, one of the most regulated countries in the western world, has been a popular destination for scholars of public administration and political science) and, briefly, Ohio. Parker had returned to Australia in 1954, to the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU. Milne left accidentally, thanks to some confusion over the taking of unpaid leave.60 His field was political parties, and the book which came from his briefer-than-intended New Zealand stay, Political Parties in New Zealand (1966), was a major work in what has also been a dominant interest of New Zealand political scientists. Ken Scott became acting head after Milne's departure in 1959 and professor at the end of the following year. With his death six months later the department lost one of its best teachers, a ‘natural academic’ and original wit. His New Zealand Constitution was published posthumously in 1962.

Once the department (still formally a ‘school’) grew in the 1960s, so could its teaching range. In 1972 Political Science took full advantage of the new credit system to offer a total of 36, mostly four-credit, undergraduate courses. Indeed, the very large number especially of stage-three political science courses was a matter of continuing concern to the vice-chancellor and deans.61 Among this array some focuses emerge. There was once a passing thought that New Zealand's several political science departments would specialise, but the extent to which they did has been a result of local conditions and personal inclinations rather than a rational plan. Victoria's things have been public administration and international politics, offering the only postgraduate programmes in both these fields.62 The international side was stimulated in the 1960s by the Asian studies development, and the department absorbed one and a half staff from the disbanded Asian Studies Centre in the 1970s. After Brookes, in 1978 an Asian specialist (in Malaya and Borneo, to be precise) was appointed to the chair: a Victoria graduate, Margaret Clark. In the 1980s, other staff research interests outside the local included Pacific politics (taught since the 1950s), disarmament, foreign policy and international disaster relief; and international relations was the most conspicuous area of growing student interest.

The department discharged a particular local responsibility with the production of Political Science. Although this was never intended to be solely inward in its interest, New Zealand content always dominated, and increasingly so. After the formation of a New Zealand Political Studies Association in 1974 (over 20 years after the first attempt) the journal's editorial board was extended to include the heads of all five university departments, but the editorial responsibility remained page 260 with Victoria.63 The Victoria students who launched Political Science in 1947 also pioneered election studies in this country (and it was partly this development which spurred, then rendered redundant, the Survey Research Centre proposal). Later others, notably Auckland, got into this field. Back in 1949, an analysis of the election had been the main project of the students who had formed the Political Science Society, conducted by a specially convened Election Research Group (advised by John McCreary on the use of statistics), and published in the third number of Political Science. They were on the ball: the first Nuffield study in Britain had only just been published in 1947, and these, rather than American versions, remained the New Zealand psephologist's model.

Among this department's claims to uniqueness there was also its curricular association with commerce, valued on both sides even if it had occasional unwelcome side-effects – like the famous year (1978) when attempts to control numbers in accountancy resulted in a POLS 111 enrolment of 915. There were predictable complaints from ‘a disaffected minority’ but most put up with it ‘in a good-humoured and highly co-operative way’, the course co-ordinator and chief lecturer Les Cleveland reported. Cleveland, who was also a photographer, poet, social and cultural historian, author of the course textbook The Politics of Utopia (1979), and sometime journalist, bush contractor and welder, always endeavoured to make the subject attractive to ‘the BCA “captives”’ – as perhaps only ‘a good keen man’ with a PhD could convincingly do.64 The drafting of commerce students into political science also had the effect of exaggerating the contrast between the political science class and the Diploma of Public Administration, which was ‘a small, intense, elderly affair’.65

A high profile in political punditry naturally accrued from Victoria's location: its political scientists are conveniently called upon as expert witnesses. It was on this account that the department found itself briefly the focus of parliamentary attention in 1978 (but only in jest, in the form of a light-hearted motion put in a dull moment in the session, ‘That this House notes with interest and amusement the fact that … staff members of the School of Political Science and Public Administration including many who frequently comment on New Zealand politicians, obtained their qualifications and degrees in such places and countries as Malaya, Prague, Delhi, Florida, London, Columbia, Denver, Madras, Chicago, Mysore, Nottingham, Syracuse, and Loyola and questions whether such qualifications adequately equip these academics to comment on New Zealand politics’).66 John Roberts, for example, as a scholar wrote little but was well known as a commentator particularly for Lookout, his 10-minute, weekly political round-up on National Radio (his verbal facility and careful even-handedness overcoming any problem that might have been caused by his labour background and left-of-centre views: it was never, he claims, an issue). As a professor, he regarded academic administration with an insouciance (ironically) that exasperated deans and vice-chancellors. He stood for a seat on the regional council once but failed to get elected, unlike Ralph Brookes, who served a term on the Wellington City Council, giving a practical grounding to his academic interest in local government. In this page 261
Professor Gary Hawke, director of the Institute of Policy Studies (right), discusses economic restructuring with visiting Iranian officials

Professor Gary Hawke, director of the Institute of Policy Studies (right), discusses economic restructuring with visiting Iranian officials

respect, though, politics met political science more prominently in the careers of the politicians who spent time up here – like Labour prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, who taught in both political science and law, or National's Jack Marshall, a visiting professor in public policy and years before a lecturer briefly in law. Personal contact, and personal confidence, were ultimately the foundation on which a creative town–gown relationship rested.

With the reshaping of the commerce faculty in the 1980s the School of Political Science and Public Administration became in name, as well, a Department of Politics. Its courses had been removed from the BCA core, its staff from the commerce faculty, with the exception of a few who retained membership of commerce's ‘government studies’ group. It was not wholly happy with this turn of events, fearing for the intellectual breadth of the commerce degree on the one hand, and for the coherence of political science and public administration. In fact, ‘public administration’ as such was already on the way out. On the eve of his retirement in 1988, Roberts suggested that his chair be disestablished and replaced by one of policy studies, a more up-to-date term and an expanding field elsewhere.

Since the replacement of the diploma in 1976 by the Master of Public Policy, the university had also acquired an Institute of Policy Studies in 1983, a very successful ‘town–gown’ initiative intended to carry out research for, and funded by, both public and private institutions. It was born out of discussions between Roberts, Henry Lang and Frank Holmes, partly from concern about the imminent disestablishment of the New Zealand Planning Council and the vacuum this would leave in the field of independent, policy-oriented thinking. A former deputy secretary of External Affairs, Malcolm Templeton, was appointed its first director; he was succeeded in a few years by professor of economic history Gary Hawke. By contrast, the MPP had had a more uncertain start, failing to gain the confidence of the State Services Commission, but it was to be revived in 1990s by Claudia page 262 Scott, reader in economics, who was appointed to the new public policy chair. It was co-ordinated now by the Graduate School of Business and Government Management, which had formed out of the reconstitution of the commerce faculty, cementing Victoria's historical strength in graduate programmes in this field, and their orientation further from art towards commerce.


While political science has affiliations with arts and commerce, geography crosses the disciplinary border of art and science. Although its origins, both as a discipline and a department, lie in science, like psychology geography has aligned itself with the science faculty primarily to have access to resources. It has identified its distinctive style and its strength on the other side. This has not been uncontested. In terms of quantity, however, it is the case that geography at Victoria has been more a social than a physical science.

The distinctive, indeed ‘maverick’ style which constitutes the Victoria school of geography in this account has been seen as its interdisciplinary or ‘holistic’ approach within regional and national contexts, when other geography departments have rather adopted the ‘paradigm of the decade’.67 It was founded by the first professor, Keith Buchanan, and continued explicitly by the second, Harvey Franklin, and associate professor Ray Watters. Buchanan, taking over in 1953 from senior lecturer D.W. McKenzie, a physical geographer in the Cotton school, swung the new department in the first instance to human geography, and established a department that would find its ‘major strengths in those aspects of the subject concerned with geographical implications of social and economic change’.68 He had told his interviewers when applying for the job that his special interest was in agricultural geography because his father had been a small-holder. Before, his
Geography professor Keith Buchanan on the last day in the Salamanca Road huts. M.D. King photo

Geography professor Keith Buchanan on the last day in the Salamanca Road huts. M.D. King photo

page 263 field of work had been Africa (he taught at Natal and Ibadan as well as Birmingham and the LSE); from now it was to be Asia, specifically China and mainland South East Asia. His ideological approach was left wing (and a little utopian). The Chinese People and the Chinese Earth (London, 1966) was the first of several major publications which cemented his international standing in this field. Buchanan's reputation in Victoria's story also lies in his teaching: as ‘one of the most talented lecturers of his day’, he spoke with the moral fire ‘of a Welsh preacher’, and ‘did more than perhaps anyone else of his generation to question the insularity, the provincial assumptions, smug ethnocentrism and ignorance of New Zealanders’.69 In fact the decision to include Asia in the geography programme was made before the professor was appointed. They were pioneering not only Asian geography in a New Zealand university, but Asian studies. China, Indo-China, Indonesia, Japan and India have been covered in this department's teaching about Asia – or as Buchanan once wrote, ‘what New Zealanders term their “Near North” (however remote it may be from their thinking or their concern)’.70 Europe, the Pacific, New Zealand and Latin America have made up the range of its regional interests. This is a department that has always seen the study of elsewhere as one of its main concerns.

The journal Pacific Viewpoint also carried the department's style, and reputation. It was founded in 1960 as an interdisciplinary, social science journal, and an international one, with its regional eye on (obviously) the Pacific rim, its thematic focus on economic and development issues; and it made Victoria an international name in the field of Third World and development studies. Asia figured largely in its pages in the first half of the 1960s, less so from the 1970s when the emphasis moved down to the Pacific. There was more competition in the publishing field now; and student interest in Asia had drifted off. Buchanan's own retirement (in 1975) contributed to some diminution of the department's Asian strength, but it was to remain an important part of its teaching programme.

Harvey Franklin, who succeeded Buchanan in the chair (and had also come from Birmingham), studied Europe, particularly its peasantry, and the New Zealand economy, on which he made provocative statements in Trade, Growth and Anxiety: New Zealand beyond the welfare state in 1978 (when this was not widely believed to be an imminent prospect) and Cul de Sac: the question of New Zealand's future (1985). Ray Watters contributed the small (academically speaking) but unique area of Latin America, whose geography Victoria has been the only New Zealand university to teach, until the 1990s when it was dropped (with regret) after Watters' retirement. The course he started in 1966 came out of two years of fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon in 1963–64 for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. But he had contributed especially at first to the department's Pacific field. In the context of decolonisation the Pacific was a productive area of student as well as staff research in the 1960s – and not just among geographers. In the early 1970s Watters led a team of geographers and anthropologists to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands to undertake socio-economic studies of five of the atoll islands for the British Ministry of Overseas Development, a three-year project that took six.71

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Finding the wherewithal for fieldwork in other countries has been a constant, and growing, constraint on geography's research and teaching range – a particular problem to a department with a longstanding commitment to development studies. All of its Latin American fieldwork, for example, was funded from overseas sources. Thus it is not surprising that New Zealand geography has generated the large majority of student theses. It took an original, political economy approach to the local field, and contributed in turn to the round of national development conferences and debate in the 1960s. (A policy component in its courses is seen to have assisted its graduates into a wide range of employment, a record of which the department is proud.) In the field of human and especially urban geography on the other hand, attention to the local in the 1970s displaced (it has been argued) ‘the distinctive Victoria University developmental approach to contemporary geography’.72

Others might see a stronger claim to a Victoria ‘school’ of geography on the physical geography side, in the continuation of the Cotton school of geomorphology. McKenzie maintained this line, but with a flair for teaching that Cotton lacked, and a greater concern with the interaction of people and land. (Passed over for the chair, he remained in the department to become an associate professor and be given a personal chair.) The second physical geography appointment (Ralph Wheeler) was also a geomorphologist, to which he added the plate-tectonics revolution in geology. By the end of the 1960s the department could offer a full physical geography programme, with honours from the early 1970s. Geomorphology remained the focus of research, but was updated in the 1970s by the addition of subjects like climatology and hydrology, and by the quantitative revolution, which produced ‘morphometry’. These developments applied particularly to the study of slope stability and soil erosion founded a major area of the department's work now: Mike Crozier (appointed in 1974) would establish an international reputation for his work on landslides. (The Wellington–Wairarapa region is well suited to this field.)

Ecology, or environmental studies, also made its appearance in the 1970s. While efforts to create an interdisciplinary centre of environmental studies failed, it was in geography that this nevertheless fashionable interest took strongest hold, moving in the 1980s from regional studies to focus on resource management issues. Always the smaller side of the department, physical geography was at its strongest in establishment terms in the late 1970s, but suffered in the 1980s from an exodus of staff (across the department, in fact) and was maintained only with difficulty. Its graduate and research work became the responsibility of the new Research School of Earth Sciences in 1985; in time, the department as a whole would find its institutional home in science.

In cartography, though, Victoria geography makes its claim as art. Buchanan was an innovator here (as had been Cotton); but it was McKenzie's imaginative use of aerial photography that really established cartography as one of this department's points of distinction. The first separate undergraduate course in Australasia, it is claimed – in cartography and aerial photographic interpretation – page 265 was established in 1965, taught by McKenzie and David Winchester, a cartographer with the New Zealand Geological Survey (appointed at first as a technician, later to a lectureship). The introduction in the 1970s to writings by Gombrich, Arnheim and Berger underlay the development of the ‘sketch-pad approach’. French cartography and a visiting American architectural psychologist interested in mental mapping were other influences. The aim of cartography at Victoria was to produce ‘a conceptual logic’ rather than proficiency in technical method. Its style was the ‘apparent casualness of the crayon and the marker pen sketch’ rather than the precision of technology. They like to call it the Picasso approach.73


Faculty politics, how the social sciences position themselves – art or science or commerce – is not the important story of education, but rather the purpose of education as a subject in the university in the first place. Education had nurtured the college's emergent social science theme since the 1930s, under W.H. Gould and A.E. Campbell, before Crawford Somerset, ‘the greatest of the “founding fathers” of sociology in New Zealand’, joined the department in 1948.74 Crippled by osteoarthritis while at training college and unable, therefore, to obtain a teacher's certificate, Somerset had embarked instead on a career in adult education, in rural Canterbury, where the district of Oxford became ‘Littledene’, and then in Feilding, where he and his wife Gwen founded the country's first rural community centre. (Here, in fact, was the genesis of the School of Social Science's community surveys.)75 Somerset taught widely in the department until his retirement in 1962 (he referred to himself as one of the last of ‘the general practitioners’) but with a continuing interest in educational sociology, and in Littledene.76

The professor who had succeeded Gould in 1946, C.L. Bailey, gave his attention to educational history, philosophy, and education in developing countries, a significant interest of this department into the 1960s; the study of Maori and education was a later development. History is a longer-running theme, and not only the history of education. Rollo Arnold, appointed in 1966 and to a chair in 1976, would publish three important works of New Zealand social history.77 Jack Shallcrass, another member of the Education Department well known outside as well as inside the university – as a prominent public commentator on social and educational issues – brought the ideas of Paulo Freire to his classes in the 1970s ‘with the fervour of the convert’.78 More quietly, Arthur Fieldhouse, on the educational psychology side and the first incumbent of the second chair, had been known back in the 1930s through his radio broadcasts to schools on musical appreciation, but in educational circles was recognised as a pioneer in the development of standardised achievement tests.

While sociology was a notable early influence here, educational psychology remained, naturally, a large part of the education curriculum. (Its disciplinary status, on the other hand, was a subject of some discord.) Training school psychologists was a more specialised, and in this university's experience not a successful, undertaking – although this was not (entirely) its own fault. A Diploma of page 266 Educational Psychology was introduced in 1976 at the request of the Department of Education, after a government decision to increase the number of school psychologists it was training from nine to 27 a year. Auckland had had a course going for some 15 years, and Otago joined in later. These as well as Victoria's catered almost entirely to the government programme; there were few private students. In 1980 the government decided to cut the number of placements back to 11, clearly too few to warrant three university programmes; and, disregarding cogent arguments from the Victoria department in favour of its own (including a not insubstantial investment in staff), chose the other two. The Committee of the Vice-chancellor and Deans took the lesson that ‘this University [must be] very wary of initiating academic developments that are vulnerable to changes in policy developments outside of the University itself’.79

The larger theme to follow is that of professional training and the arts degree. The BA is the least professional, in this sense, of the undergraduate degrees – compared, for example, with medicine or law – and education, along with the public service, the profession with which it has been most closely matched. Victoria's education professors have regarded their subject as part of the liberal arts programme of the university rather than as a training course for teachers. (Education courses, that is, ‘constitute a continuous, comprehensive, and independent study of education as a major institution in society’.80 Notwithstanding, education's legitimate place in the academy once attracted its share of suspicion.) Still, traditionally the teaching profession has been the destination of a considerable percentage of the university's BA students, and there was a longstanding co-operative relationship with the teachers' college, even if Hunter's plan for the two institutions to share the same site did not proceed. Primary teacher trainees were encouraged to do university study concurrently with their teaching diploma, still more so with the establishment of cross-crediting arrangements in the 1970s.81 Victoria also had a smaller number of ‘Division U’ students doing their undergraduate degree on a government studentship before taking the one-year, postgraduate secondary teacher training course at Auckland or Canterbury.

The question of teaching becoming wholly a graduate profession – of making a degree an entry requirement for both primary and secondary teaching – had been raised as early as 1928, but neither university teachers of education nor the minister then were keen. Three decades later, the suggestion of the Hughes Parry committee in 1959 that an experimental development of university-based, post-primary training be tried at Victoria went unheeded (or rather was superseded). The establishment of distinctly profession-oriented faculties at Waikato and Massey in the 1960s brought these issues back into focus in the 1970s.82 Both the government and teacher organisations now wanted degree programmes for primary training. In this context Victoria and Wellington Teachers' College convened a working party in 1977. Although hesitant to make firm recommendations, it thought the two institutions should discuss the development of a Bachelor of Education: a four-year professional degree for both primary and, in a more specialised version, secondary teaching. This was not new ground: Waikato, Massey page 267

Dr and Professor Adcock (left), Professor and Mrs Bailey, and director-general of education, C.E. Beeby (right), are amused by an exhibit in the Mathematics Department. New Zealand Free Lance collection, ATL F47280 1/2

and Otago universities already had a BEd, and Canterbury would soon. But Victoria's Academic Development Committee urged caution: the BEd proposal had attracted criticism on a number of grounds. It might be seen as a slight on the teachers' college course, and some perceived an attempt by the university to encroach on the autonomy of the college. This was a sensitive point at a time when Victoria was working out its relationship with the rapidly expanding non-university tertiary sector (through a recently formed Wellington Tertiary Education Consultative Committee). On the other hand, Victoria's Education Department declined to accept special responsibility for the university's relationship with the teachers' college, and did ‘not aspire to have its present principal areas of academic work extended by the addition of pre-service teacher training’.83 It did not, in other words, have ambitions to be a special school. When a jointly taught BEd was eventually introduced in the early 1990s, it met problems that were not only to do with the geographical distance between the two institutions.84


A professor of economics once identified philosophy as one of the university's ‘useless’ subjects. On another scale, it was ‘indispensable in any University’, wrote Hunter in 1949, and especially so in this one, as philosophy ‘provides fundamental criticism to many Arts subjects but in particular to the Social Sciences in which page 268 this College needs to be strong’.85 In fact, it was where philosophy meets mathematics that an especially creative cross-disciplinary relationship was to be formed here, in logic.

The most widely used textbook in the world on modal logic is Cresswell and Hughes' Introduction to Modal Logic (1968, 1984 and 1996), co-authored by Victoria's two professors.86 Logic was a comparatively late development for George Hughes, who arrived to take up the new chair in philosophy in 1951. His early interests were ethics and the philosophy of religion; he had been ordained an Anglican priest in 1950 in Bangor, where he was teaching at the University College of North Wales. He was tempted away to Australia in 1960 (to the chair at the University of Western Australia) but for family reasons was back in a few months, and retired from Victoria in 1984.87 In the 1950s he transformed philosophy with remarkable speed from one of the university's weaker subjects, overshadowed by psychology, into a department of strength, able to attract some outstanding students to graduate in its field. In the university at large he wielded a quietly persuasive, liberal influence in such forums as the Academic Development Committee. In philosophical circles his major work – if not his most widely read – has been judged to be his 1982 study of John Buridan on Self-reference: a critical translation with philosophical commentary of chapter eight of the fourteenth-century philosopher's Sophismata.

One of Hughes' students, Max Cresswell graduated from Victoria in 1961, studied with (expatriate New Zealander) A.N. Prior at Manchester, returned to join the staff here in 1963 and was given a personal chair in 1974. His work on logic and linguistics as well as in modal logic is of international standing. The
Philosophy lecturer J.M. Hinton and Professor George Hughes (right), 1955. NPS collection, ATL F34564 1/2

Philosophy lecturer J.M. Hinton and Professor George Hughes (right), 1955. NPS collection, ATL F34564 1/2

page 269 teaching of logic as a distinct area was developed in the 1960s (not without debate about whether logic properly belonged in philosophy or mathematics): a separate stage-two unit was introduced to cater to maths as well as logically inclined philosophy students, leaving a logic-free Philosophy II for those who were not. The department's logic branch has developed a special relationship, and held seminars and summer schools, with the Mathematics and, more recently, Computer Science departments.

Hunter's observation of philosophy's usefulness to a range of disciplines can nevertheless be demonstrated. A sudden fall in stage-one enrolments when Law in Society was introduced, for example, indicates that many law students found philosophy a useful arts choice. A feature of this department has been its large first-year classes in proportion to its advanced ones. Its course offering, arranged in the three standard branches of general philosophy, history of philosophy, and logic, changed little from the 1950s to the 1970s. New interests and new applications came in the 1980s, with courses like feminist philosophy and philosophy of art. Philosophy also expanded its formal departmental liaisons in this decade with a shared teaching programme with Political Science in moral, social and political philosophy. But it remains in logic that Victoria's reputation in philosophy lies.

George Hughes was also one of the prime movers behind the introduction of religious studies, where this university made a mark by appointing the first professor in Australasia in 1970, and a controversial one too. However, religious studies is only tangentially related to philosophy in the story of the university's intellectual development: it was not an offshoot of philosophy, as one might expect (not because of the philosophy professor's personal interest, but because this is a familiar pattern elsewhere). It was more or less by ‘an accident of the prevailing circumstances’, even though a perfectly amiable one, that Philosophy hosted religious studies for 10 years.88 When the development was first mooted, it was assumed that there would be a new department because there was no obvious place to put it.

It was the students who first asked for religious studies, in 1961. A recommendation from the Professorial Board two years later that a chair, and in due course department, be established followed a report from a committee of the arts faculty, convened by Hughes, who explained how religious studies could be included within the arts syllabus ‘with complete propriety’.89 Religious studies, that is, was expressly not vocational. It was to be clearly distinguished from theology. (Otago, the most religious-minded branch of New Zealand's secular university system, had offered degrees in divinity since 1946: the Rationalist Hunter, as vice-chancellor, had vigorously opposed this in the Senate.) The committee would not approve of any course consisting ‘either wholly or partly of Biblical exegesis’, nor one ‘on the History of Israel or Christian Origins’, nor any ‘concerned exclusively or almost exclusively with the Christian or any other single religion’. Nor was it to be solely concerned with religious thought. Rather, the programme they had in mind might include the study of important world religions, and the sociology, anthropology, psychology (social and individual) as well as philosophy of religion.90

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This report, recommending the establishment of a department and rapid development of a full undergraduate course, was approved by both the Professorial Board and the Council, but the vice-chancellor and deans did not rate religious studies as the highest of priorities. There was a complaint from the Student Christian Movement (in 1967) and two submissions from the arts professors (in 1968 and 1969) before a professor was sought. The specifications for the chair made plain its secular nature, stating that applicants' religious beliefs or affiliations would be irrelevant. The Council's choice was a bold one, and unanimous. Lloyd Geering, principal of Knox Theological Hall and professor of Old Testament studies at the University of Otago, had a few years before been tried for heresy in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and the media, for questioning popular belief about the Resurrection and the immortality of the soul. (He made these ‘heretical’ statements in the church newspaper Outlook and in a sermon at the opening of Victoria's 1967 academic year.)91 This controversy ‘saw the awakening of a New Zealand theological consciousness’ at a time of ferment in western theology that had barely touched this country;92 and made Lloyd Geering a figure of exceptional notoriety, for an academic or clergyman, when he came to Victoria in 1971.

Geering was allowed to choose, and nominated Philosophy as his temporary departmental home. He taught a stage-one course on world religions in 1972 to 80 students; a major in religious studies was offered from 1974, and honours in 1978. The addition of two lecturers enabled the programme to expand to include Indian religious thought, primal religions, and religion in the Pacific and New Zealand. Geering himself continued to examine the role and challenge for Christianity in a secular and technological world, and remained a prominent public figure for doing so. The department developed good relationships with local ethnic and religious communities. Within the university, however, religious studies attracted some criticism for becoming a ‘soft option’, precisely as the 1963 report had warned that it must not.93 (It also attracted some concern about the funding and status of a lecturer's study tours of India.)

The creation of a separate Department of Religious Studies in 1982, although what Hughes' committee had intended, was preceded by some argument among the vice-chancellor and deans. The current trend in academic organisation, it was observed, was amalgamation not fragmentation, and three staff could not a department make. For Religious Studies and Philosophy, the issue was academic identity rather than administrative convenience. The university had started with the establishment of a chair precisely to define religious studies as a disciplinary field, rather than letting it grow organically within others, and to define it more widely than religious philosophy. And anyway, Geering commented, while relations had been cordial, ‘there is such a thing as outstaying one's welcome’.94 The philosophers too found the deans' proposal for a combined Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies ‘wholly unacceptable’.95

The academic visibility that departmental status gave was threatened in a few years, however, by the disestablishment of the chair after Geering's retirement in page 271 1984.96 It was further undermined by the department's novel decision, in 1988, to rename itself the Department of World Religions. The point of this was to make plainer the difference between the study of religions and training for the church, and that the academic study of it did not denote a personal commitment to a religion; it was also to emphasise the diversity of religious traditions that were taught.97 It was all very well being innovative. The fact that the term was nowhere else in the world in use arguably diminished rather than enhanced the department's identity. Moreover, the new name promised a universality in its teaching programme that the department did not in fact offer.98 The name Religious Studies was reinstated in 1994, and so was its chair.


On the continuum from science to art, history moves this chapter further toward art – although within history it could be said that the progression has been from art to social science. It was typically provocative of Peter Munz to give his inaugural lecture, when he was appointed to a chair in history after J.C. Beaglehole's retirement, on ‘the concept of the Middle Ages as a sociological category’. He had no mind to ‘share in the modish popularity’ of sociology and the social sciences (it was 1969), which he believed would be a temporary phenomenon. He was interested in explaining what history could teach sociology (how to account for change), and in considering how a sociological perspective might even revise history. But he concluded by defining history emphatically as an art, not science. In the modern university which was ‘built around the sciences, natural, social, mathematical and commercial’ and believed in scientific certainty, the historian played a ‘salutary’ role by exercising imaginative judgement. An historian, said Munz, was ‘a poet of events’.99

J.C. Beaglehole was a poet–historian in a more literal sense: an historian who also wrote poetry. This may be a local phenomenon: Keith Sinclair was too, as was Munz and Beaglehole's sometime colleague W.H. Oliver (or perhaps it was simply the times). Beaglehole, once appointed to his research fellowship and immersed in the labours of Cook and Banks, largely withdrew from classroom teaching, although he continued to take American and Commonwealth history for small groups of honours students. But lecturing to undergraduates had never been his forte; nor administration. Fred Wood shone especially in the former, ‘sharply perceptive, yet unfailingly benign’.100 Munz felt closer to Wood. In his inaugural address he thanked Wood's ‘sympathetic moral support’ for the opportunity to pursue medieval history here: ‘a particularly unsuitable subject for a modern university and, especially unsuitable for a modern university in a country of the new world’, he confessed, although ‘relevance’ is this sense is not a theme one would normally expect Munz to be concerned by.101

With these three, Victoria's History Department was recognised as the best in the country in the 1940s and 1950s.102 They had Winston Monk too, for four years: an Otago graduate and Rhodes scholar, author of a volume in the Hutchinson series on Britain in the western Mediterranean, and an energetic and individual page 272
J.C. Beaglehole addresses the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs at the college, August 1954. NPS collection, ATL F33982 1/2

J.C. Beaglehole addresses the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs at the college, August 1954. NPS collection, ATL F33982 1/2

teacher of the history of the United States and post-colonial Africa and South East Asia, it was a devastating loss to the department when he was killed in the plane crash that also claimed McGechan. New Zealand in the world – to quote the title of Wood's centennial survey – was a major interest of Victoria's historians in these postwar years. Wood, Beaglehole and Monk, Mary Boyd (a junior lecturer then, and one of the first Victoria women to be made a reader, 20 years later), and others who spent shorter times in the department in the 1950s, were all closely involved in the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, which had been founded in 1934. So were other Victoria staff, notably the economists (like Belshaw and Holmes), international lawyers (McGechan and Aikman, later Quentin-Baxter and Keith) and political scientists, to the extent that the institute was for 30 or so years effectively an adjunct of this university.103 History's farther-reaching ties then were particularly with London and Australian Keith Hancock's Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and Canberra, where local boy J.W. Davidson was professor of Pacific history at ANU. It was later, in the 1960s, that New Zealand graduates returned from American universities to the staffs of departments here.

A strong presence of women was a notable feature of Victoria's History Department in the later 1950s and the 1960s: nearly half of its staff were women one year. It was in this time that the department was described (after John Knox) page 273 as a ‘monstrous regiment of women’, facetiously, of course. It is fitting, although quite unrelated, that it was in part the History Department that later spawned women's studies. The first women's studies programme in a New Zealand university was pioneered at Victoria in 1975 by Phillida Bunkle, who was ‘job-sharing’ (itself an innovation) with her husband Jock Phillips teaching American history, and who had not long since been at Smith College, Massachusetts, where feminist studies was taught.104 Women's studies was an interdisciplinary affair (which was in vogue then) that would develop its stronger links with languages and literature. Overseen by a board of studies convened initially by another member of History's ‘monstrous regiment’, Beryl Hughes, it was carried on, against odds (but by the commitment of its students and staff), with the smallest of ‘fractional’ establishments. The first Women in Society course was co-ordinated by Bunkle from History until her formal appointment to a less than half-time faculty position in 1978. Jacquie Matthews from the French Department joined her, part time at first, to co-ordinate the second paper, Images of Women, in 1979. They were managing five undergraduate courses (including Feminism and Social Theory, Biography and Autobiography, and Feminist Writing) and an honours research paper by the late 1980s, when a women's studies major was introduced (by the expedient of double-labelling). Theory was to remain the weak link. Other universities had not been too slow to catch on to the feminist studies wave, and by the time the question of departmental status was being considered in the mid–1990s Victoria had fallen a little behind in both its establishment and academic strength.105

Back in the History Department, and the 1960s, the matter of status – that the
Beryl Hughes (left), Phillida Bunkle (centre) and the first women's studies graduates, May 1990

Beryl Hughes (left), Phillida Bunkle (centre) and the first women's studies graduates, May 1990

page 274 women mostly held junior positions – perhaps contributed to a deterioration of staff relationships in the later 1960s. So did personalities, intellectual differences, and simply size, which was a general experience. Inevitably it was all less cosy when staff meetings were no longer held over lunch at Peter Munz's flat – or as another professor in the university has put it, once a department became too big for one cocktail party. History's move into the penthouse suite of the new Rankine Brown building may not have helped either (not that it had been luxuriously accommodated previously). Wood, it is said, chose the ninth floor because that would mean that when the library, as it was meant to, expanded, History would be the last to have to leave. This measure of security brought with it a low ceiling and nine floors' worth of rising hot air. Munz led a successful campaign for improvements – sending long memos to the vice-chancellor and assistant principal describing the physiological effects of having seminars in an internal room with no fresh air, and of staff studies in which ‘even short sojourn of one single person … causes fatigue and a slight numbness’ – although the difference was relative.106
The Rankine Brown stairs: nine flights down from the History Department (or up when the lifts weren't working). M.D. King photo

The Rankine Brown stairs: nine flights down from the History Department (or up when the lifts weren't working). M.D. King photo

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History professor Peter Munz. Carlotta Munz photo

History professor Peter Munz. Carlotta Munz photo

History resided in its ‘precarious position’107 at the top of the Rankine Brown building (the lifts, reputedly a job-lot from Bombay, were notoriously unreliable) until 1996. (A bonus of being the last academic department in residence in the library building, on the other hand, was being able to ‘borrow’ books via the internal stairs – until the librarian began making sweeps of the historians' rooms.)

For whatever reasons, the department made the transition to the post-Wood– Beaglehole era with difficulty. Beaglehole's research fellowship had become a chair in British Commonwealth history in 1963, a label more ‘consistent with the dignity of the University’ and fitting for ‘an historian of world eminence’ who had just declined an Oxford chair,108 and a regular chair when Munz was appointed to it in 1967. This was an obvious succession, and Munz was already being courted by other universities.109 It took a little more time to replace Wood, who retired in 1969. W.H. Oliver, who had left after four years here to head a new department at Massey in 1964, accepted the chair but then changed his mind. David Hamer, a young Auckland graduate not long back from Britain, was appointed in 1970. Sadly, this was one two-chair department where the democratic revolution in academic government was not an easy one. But Munz eventually relinquished his right, under the old rules as the senior professor, to the headship. Disinclined to participate in the mundane business of university government, he has been a conspicuous exception to this department's significant contribution to academic administration (it has contributed a deputy and acting vice-chancellor and two long-serving deans). Increasingly he was to be outside the mainstream not only of his department (while remaining its most prestigious and internationally recognised scholar) but also of academic history in New Zealand generally: objecting to fads like social history and women's history, and to the encouragement of students to do research essays in New Zealand history topics rather than to take the ‘long view’. Munz was a philosopher as much as an historian, and more and more the page 276 philosopher as his interests moved from medieval history to the nature of myth, the philosophy of history and of science, and in the 1990s to evolutionary epistemology. He remained a universalist in an age of specialisms (in Bill Oliver's words, ‘New Zealand's intellectual Man Alone’).110

In the 1960s, the Auckland History Department grew to become the country's biggest, and strongest especially in New Zealand history; and it was there that a New Zealand Journal of History was founded in 1967. Thirty years earlier, the locus of an emerging academic history community had been Beaglehole and Wood, the Victoria department and the Department of Internal Affairs. New Zealand history at Victoria looked precarious for a moment, when the delay in filling Wood's place and some other sudden departures put pressure on the teaching programme. A crisis was averted by the appointment (controversially) of W.B. Sutch as a visiting fellow for 1970. The previous year, in fact, Munz had suggested disestablishing the second chair and appointing two senior lecturers in early modern history instead (he had two willing candidates in mind), so strengthening ‘the European and English side … It seems that it may be advisable for us to become stronger in this field and to leave Auckland to build up their NZ history – a field in which we are weak.’111 Obviously this advice was not taken (although one of those likely candidates, Colin Davis, did join the staff a few years later – but eventually would follow a distinguished career elsewhere).112

A ‘floating’ stage-one unit in New Zealand history (meaning there was no stage two or three) had been introduced in 1960 – interestingly, on Munz's initiative (and taught by Bill Oliver and Mary Boyd). They had been teaching New Zealand history, however, in the two diploma courses – social science and public administration – for some years already.113 The mid–1970s saw a rapid increase in enrolments in New Zealand history courses. The rise of New Zealand as a large and distinct part of the history curriculum is a major theme of the department's post–1960s development. And if one makes indigenisation, ‘the ways in which the people in a new university progressively adapted their institution to a new environment’, the organising idea of the history of universities in New Zealand (as Keith Sinclair did of his), it is a central one114 – but not the only one. In the 1950s and '60s the Victoria department taught the middle ages and early modern Europe, British and Commonwealth history (including New Zealand here), America, Asia, the Pacific and, briefly, Africa. The new staff recruited in the 1970s contributed both new subjects and new versions of the old: in urban history, American intellectual history, French peasants and revolutions, Australian history, and race relations. Moreover, teaching history in a New Zealand context does not only mean teaching New Zealand's history (as Beaglehole had once observed). Relevance is not just a question of dirtying one's hands in the dusty archives of the local past. But the growing class of undergraduate students, as well as postgraduate ones, were encouraged to do so now (to Munz's disdain): to produce research essays, taking advantage of this university's privileged access to the resources of the National Archives and the Alexander Turnbull Library, adding to the undergrowth of a burgeoning New Zealand historical literature.115 The Victoria page 277 department produced too in the 1980s some major and iconoclastic statements in New Zealand historiography: Jock Phillips' A Man's Country, James Belich's New Zealand Wars and Miles Fairburn's The Ideal Society and its Enemies.

Medieval history was dropped from the stage-one programme after Munz's retirement in 1987, and the department's third period followed a clutch of retirements and resignations in the mid–1980s. American history, in fact, was the single most popular subject above stage one at this time, even though the lecturer responsible for this field, Jock Phillips, had already shifted his attention to the local scene – from the intellectual history of one frontier society to another. Part of this transition, and his out of the academy, was the creation in 1984 of the Stout Research Centre ‘for the study of New Zealand society, history and culture’. Phillips found some external funding (although this was more difficult for history than for commerce), and some stained-glass windows rescued from the former home of Robert Stout on The Terrace when the house was razed by the serial arsonist who destroyed or damaged some 20 university properties over the summer of 1984–85. An annual research fellowship was funded by the J.D. Stout Trust. Housed in Wai-te-ata Road two doors up from the Institute of Policy Studies, the Stout Centre was also part of vice-chancellor Axford's plan for a street of research institutes with spectacular views. If it did not always develop in ways that its founder and first director had intended, it established a niche in the infrastructure of New Zealand historical scholarship, with its popular series of annual conferences, and rooms for visiting scholars of diverse kinds. It was founded at a time, in the 1980s, when for various reasons the meaning of ‘national identity’ was a growing subject of academic, political and popular discourse. Its interdisciplinary intention was at the forefront of a coming trend, the latest brand of ‘area studies’ (although this was contentious here too: early plans for a teaching as well as research programme in ‘New Zealand studies’ foundered, while the very concept of ‘New Zealand studies’ was opposed by the Department of Maori Studies). The very impressive number of publications in the 1980s and 1990s that have acknowledged Stout Centre support include history, biography and natural science, children's literature and novels.