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A Life of J. C. Beaglehole: New Zealand Scholar


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A 'dangerous young radical' who spoke up for academic freedom and civil liberties during the depression in the 1930s and for some years was unable to find a permanent job, J.C. Beaglehole went on to become one of New Zealand's greatest scholars, recognised particularly for his contribution to international scholarship through his editing of the journals of James Cook on his voyages of discovery, and for his biography of Cook. For this work he was awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II, the first New Zealander so honoured since Lord Rutherford.

But this scholarly achievement was in many ways matched by the part he played in the intellectual and cultural life of New Zealand in his time. A prolific writer and critic he became committed to making New Zealand a more lively and civilised place to live, and through his work at Victoria University, his teaching, his involvement with the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust — among many such organisations — his influence was far reaching and touched the lives of many.

This biography is itself a monumental work of scholarship. Drawing on J.C. Beaglehole's own writing, especially his sparkling unpublished letters, the author has woven together all aspects of his father's life into an immensely readable narrative. The two chapters on Beaglehole's work on James Cook create a vivid and revealing picture of the historical scholar at work, and give the book an international significance.