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Island Stories


page ii


This is a study of the writing of New Zealand history between 1920 and 1940. Its principal themes are differing practices of history and the ways in which these practices intersected with the problems of what Peter Gibbons has called 'cultural colonisation'. Those problems concern the construction of 'New Zealand' on Pakeha terms in ways that range from the appropriation of Maori culture to conflations of 'New Zealand' with 'Pakeha'.

The first chapter examines general and theoretical problems. Each of the five following chapters discusses a different historian, community of historians, or historiographical project. Chapter two discusses the work of local historians. Chapter three deals with the work of James Cowan, who argued that conflict and compact between Maori and Pakeha lay at the heart of New Zealand history. The thesis then moves on to the work of a group of Wellington historians whose endeavours to collect source material were replicated in their texts. Two of the most significant works produced in this milieu, G. H. Scholefield's A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and T. Lindsay Buick's The Treaty of Waitangi, are discussed at some length. Chapter five concerns the writing of New Zealand history in universities, in particular the genre of the general history and the treatment of New Zealand history as it related to British, colonial policy. Finally, the thesis discusses the popular histories written for the New Zealand Centennial in 1940. These 'Centennial surveys' combined elements of academic and local histories. They illustrate the increasing cultural authority of academics and graduates in historiographical circles and in state-sponsored cultural work. They also show that this development was resisted by other historians. The final chapter takes stock of the changes associated with the growth of academic history, and examines their effect on the problems of 'cultural colonisation'.