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Creating a National Spirit: Celebrating New Zealand's Centennial

12: History and Romance: The Making of the Centennial Historical Surveys

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12: History and Romance: The Making of the Centennial Historical Surveys

Accepting an invitation to write a centennial survey on exploration, Otago schoolteacher, former All Black and mountaineer W. G. McClymont sought some guidance from the series' editor, Oliver Duff, on what approach he should take: 'Did the Historical Committee decide upon History or upon Romance?'1

They had decided on history, with perhaps a little romance thrown in. They wanted history that was both popular and scholarly; critical not adulatory; in style 'proper and dignified without being dull', 'graceful and accurate', combining 'liveliness and information, wit and authority': a 30,000-word essay that would evince scholarly rigour, the feel of authority and literary panache.2 It 'should appear', another of the editors candidly remarked, 'to be the result of a critical analysis of great research & a thorough knowledge of the subject effortlessly tossed off'.3 The series overall was intended to present a cohesive and comprehensive survey of the important aspects of the nation's history over 100 years: 'a temperate and objective survey of our achievements and errors.'4 The authors were formally commissioned in July 1938, and asked to have their manuscripts in within a year. The plan was for one survey to appear each month from December 1939. J. W. Heenan, whose brainchild the centennial publishing programme had been, had in mind J. C. Beaglehole's concise, elegant and acerbic New Zealand: A Short History (1936) as the model for the surveys 'for length of vision and style of writing'.5 History in the style of Beaglehole was rather a lot to ask of any writer, let alone twelve of them.

To consider how the historical surveys failed to fulfil their creators' expectations is not to deny the considerable achievement they were; is not to deny Heenan the right to the pride that he took in them. Of the entire centennial enterprise, of which as undersecretary for Internal Affairs he was in charge, and which was the highlight of his long and distinguished public service career, it was the publishing programme and in particular the historical surveys that were nearest to his heart. Most of the thirteen planned volumes appeared, although not monthly: seven by December 1939, the last exactly a year behind schedule. Two sold out quickly, and half were a conspicuous sales success. Four would be reprinted. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and often enthusiastic. Almost unanimously they praised the books as the restrained masterpieces of typographical art that Heenan had hoped page 162
Eric McCormick at work with Joe Heenan (holding a paper). McCormick proposed that the Centennial surveys should examine aspects of the general theme of adaptation. His Art and Letters in New Zealand explored that theme through the work of writers and artists. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, Eric McCormick Collection, PAColl-5030-2-019.

Eric McCormick at work with Joe Heenan (holding a paper). McCormick proposed that the Centennial surveys should examine aspects of the general theme of adaptation. His Art and Letters in New Zealand explored that theme through the work of writers and artists. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, Eric McCormick Collection, PAColl-5030-2-019.

they would be.6 (This was J. C. Beaglehole's work. A public competition for a dust jacket design—a gesture towards the populist theme of the centennial celebrations— failed to produce an acceptable result.) With the rest of the centennial publishing programme (the thirty pictorial surveys, G. H. Scholefield's Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, and the ill-fated historical atlas, along with a score of local and institutional histories that received centennial funding) they represented the single largest exercise of government literary patronage to that date, and inspired Heenan's wider-ranging ambitions in this regard. Some would be judged significant works in their field. But popular and scholarly was a deceptively simple brief.

It is in the dialectic of popular and scholarly—romance and history—that the historical surveys mark a significant moment in New Zealand intellectual history. As texts, and as an exercise in commissioned history, they demonstrate the main and conflicting currents of historiography in the interwar years. They were, one might say at the risk of rhetorical excess, a site of conflict, a literary moment in which different modes of historical discourse, different intellectual communities, and page 163 different understandings of what celebrating the Centennial was about, co-existed and at times clashed.

The moment was the beginning of the development of history in New Zealand, and the history of New Zealand, as an academic affair. Separate departments and chairs of history were established in New Zealand's university colleges only in the 1920s, freeing the subject from subservience to economics or political science. By the mid-1950s a new generation of academic historians was just beginning its work: Airey and Rutherford, Beaglehole and Wood. Before them, the professional practice of New Zealand history had been largely the domain of the journalist-historians, collectors and ethnographers: Cowan and Buick, Scholefield, Andersen and Best. These men understood history as chronicle and the historian's role as rescuing the traces of an heroic past. They produced texts that were compendia of primary sources: newspaper obituaries, official records, the collected memories of 'old identities', Pakeha and Maori. Their narrative practice replicated their activities as collectors of books and artefacts, as bibliophiles or librarians. In its methodology and its purpose, the history they wrote had much in common with the ethnographic project of the Polynesian Society, which, since it was founded in the 1890s, had sought to preserve the past of a dying race, and, not unlike the poets of the time, to make a cultural home for the European in New Zealand by appropriating the native: by finding the exotic in the indigenous.7

Wellington in the first decades of the twentieth century had been home to a productive and collegial community of ethnographers and historians, collectors and librarians, centred institutionally on the Alexander Turnbull Library, the General Assembly Library and the Dominion Museum, all busily engaged in the task of preserving the record of the nation's still recent past. But this was an intellectual circle—and soon a style of history—that by the 1930s was disappearing. Elsdon Best, who in his last years had taken refuge in the Turnbull Library from the damp and decay of the Museum where he had been employed as honorary ethnographer since 1910, died in 1931; retired postmaster, 'gruff, prickly, hermit-historian'8 and indefatigable indexer Horace Fildes died in 1937, the same year that Johannes Andersen retired as Turnbull librarian (although not from his larger mission of cultural colonisation); former newspaperman Lindsay Buick, who had secured himself a retirement post as official government historian with a room in the Turnbull in the early 1930s, died in 1938; the prolific chronicler of the colonial frontier, James Cowan, was old and ill by the time he wrote his centennial survey Settlers and Pioneers.

The appointment of J. C. Beaglehole and a young professor from Sydney, F.L.W. Wood, to the history department at Victoria University College in 1935 and 1936 does not represent anything as dramatic as the supplanting of the old guard by the new, any more than does Beaglehole's succession to Buick's room in the Turnbull Library in 1938 in the honorary office of research adviser (a role he neglected, in page 164 fact, for that of typographical adviser and editor-at-large of the centennial publications, and Heenan's confidant in the promotion of state patronage of the arts). But it is suggestive of the prevalent change, both institutional and epistemological, in the writing of New Zealand history.

The new historians were trained in the research practices and academic standards of the British universities of the interwar years. For them, history entailed the presentation of thesis and evidence; it had footnotes and arguments. They were more interested in the European than the Maori story, and were especially interested in the political and administrative aspects of British colonial policy and New Zealand government in the period before 1860. For Beaglehole, the explorer Cook, who would become his lifelong scholarly pursuit, also made meaningful a history he had described in 1926 as he sailed for London and postgraduate study—from which he would reluctantly return in 1929—as 'just a few tuppenny-ha'penny scraps & tenth-rate politics'.9 Cook was an important figure on both the European and the New Zealand historical stages. He was Beaglehole's solution to the problem of intellectual or cultural exile that loomed very large for New Zealand intellectuals, whether historians or poets, in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

Celebrating the centennial was in itself also fraught with ambivalence: between national assertion and colonial deference; between nationalism and internationalism (accentuated by the context of impending, and then actual war); between the celebration of progress and a nostalgia for brave pioneering days. The official rhetoric of the centennial, like the discourse of cultural nationalism, was heavy with organic metaphors of adolescence and of a nation's and a culture's coming of age.

The National Centennial Historical Committee, convened in July 1936 and charged with advising on all historical matters relating to the centennial, ranging from the planning of historical surveys to the design of centennial stamps, was a rough mix of academic and non-academic historians, officials and politicians. 'Journalist:s were almost as numerous as professors,' E. H. McCormick later observed.10 Its members included professors J. R. Elder and James Hight of Otago and Canterbury Colleges, the old guard of university historians; the younger James Rutherford, recently appointed to the chair at Auckland, and his lecturer Willis Airey, and their counterparts at Victoria; the Reverend A.B. Chappell, an Auckland journalist and Methodist minister, and Bishop H.W. Williams; Buick and G. H. Scholefield, the Parliamentary librarian; Leicester Webb, a Christchurch journalist and university lecturer in political science; the maverick Labour MP and author John A. Lee, along with his fellow MP, trade unionist James Thorn (who chaired the committee), and another author-politician, Legislative Council member J. T. Paul. The officials were A. D. Mcintosh from the Prime Minister's Department, a Victoria College history graduate who had previously worked in the General Assembly Library; Solicitor General H.H. Cornish; and Heenan himself of course.

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This committee in fact met only three times, and beyond the initial brainstorming stage had little practically to do with the historical surveys, despite having been told by Heenan that this was to be their most important task. The more influential group was a loosely constituted standing committee of Wellington members and Centennial Office staff, and a smaller group still who formed a de facto editorial committee. They were the younger, smarter set. In this inner circle were Wood and Beaglehole, and Eric McCormick, as first secretary of the National Historical Committee, but editor of the surveys after Oliver Duff left to become founding editor of the New Zealand Listener early in 1939. It was McCormick (while still secretary) who aspired to give the series some overall intellectual coherence and rigour by proposing a 'general theme' or 'common idea' which the authors would be asked to interpret. The 'idea' was adaptation: 'that 100 years ago a sample of nineteenth century society and civilisation was transferred to New Zealand and has since been reshaped and adapted, with varying degrees of success, to conform to the conditions of a new environment'. This was, as he admitted, 'simple enough, so simple and obvious that one finds scarcely any recognition of it, either implicit or explicit, in the vast mass of New Zealand writing'. He cited as two notable exceptions Beaglehole's just-published history of the University of New Zealand, and Herbert Guthrie-Smith's ecological memoir Tutira, which also happened to be Heenan's favourite New Zealand book. It was not exactly novel either, but expressed a familiar Romantic idea: that culture was organic, and therefore mutable; and a commonplace metaphor of the discourse of cultural nationalism: literature as a tender plant that needed to take root in new soil.

If each author were to take up imaginatively this common theme rather than presenting 'a bare chronicle of events', McCormick suggested, 'there would be a greater likelihood of our achieving popular appeal than if we deliberately "wrote down" to the public'.11 That the surveys had popular appeal—were 'readable by the ordinary man in the street'12—was perhaps Heenan's greatest concern. He thought McCormick's plan an excellent one.

Other members of the editorial group were A. D. Mcintosh; J. D. Pascoe, photographer, mountaineer, and future national archivist but then looking for an escape from a Christchurch law office; and D. O. W. Hall, who had a Cambridge degree and a small private income to support his ambition to be a writer. Pascoe joined the centennial staff full time as picture researcher; Hall as propaganda (or what would later have been titled public relations) officer. Hall was to be the most merciless with his editorial pen and determined that the surveys should define a new standard of historical scholarship in New Zealand. It is perhaps also worth noting here McCormick's later remark on this group: 'Pascoe, Hall and I were working under the shadow of the depression and were all more or less misfits and failures.'13

McCormick himself had returned from England in 1933 yet to complete his MLitt thesis on 'Literature in New Zealand', an expanded treatment of his New Zealand MA informed by the ideas of F. R. Leavis that he had encountered at Cambridge.

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His own centennial survey, Letters and Art in New Zealand, was to be a further distillation of this work. A job in the Hocken Library after his return had deepened his commitment to the local, although he had been little more enthusiastic than Beaglehole about coming back. The 'adaptation thesis' was, in one reading, another elaboration on or response to the 'problem of the imagination' which energised the literature of the 1930s and 1940s that would define itself as a cultural beginning. It was the problem of distance: of the relationship between there and here, Britain and New Zealand, the centre and the periphery, and of how to make a cultural home in this land. The authors of the centennial surveys heeded McCormick's brief with varying degrees of interest and success.

Between the idea and its realisation there also intruded problems of a practical kind. There were political constraints: for there was a limit, it became plain, to how far the surveys really could be critical surveys, of 'our achievements and errors', in a series commissioned by the government for an occasion that was by definition celebratory. And there were authors: choosing the right ones, and getting them to deliver.

Firstly, though, there was choosing the subjects, which 'proved more difficult than was at first expected'.14 With enthusiasm and some audacity the members of the National Historical Committee, the standing committee, and their friends began compiling lists of possible survey topics, along with various other proposals within their historical brief, such as a chair of New Zealand history, or an endowment fund for research and the publication of student theses. Down at 'Centennial House', next door to the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney Street, and more or less across the road from the Turnbull, the General Assembly Library and the Museum, Beaglehole, McCormick and Co 'considered the blank spaces in our knowledge, the personal hiatuses, the need for biographies and autobiographies, we planned for the future— planned archives, books, collections of documents'.15 Beaglehole and McCormick had soon overcome their initial distaste for the 'vulgarity' of the centennial, and its impresario Heenan, and took to the task with zest.16

Most of the survey proposals that failed to make the final selection were more academic than popular, and notably were in the fields of political and economic history. Wood, for example, thought the most important subjects to be treated were primary and secondary industry, transport, democracy, government, immigration and external relations. Economist F.B. Stephens suggested legislative devolution, corporate life and financial organisation. Surveys on banking, marketing, land settlement, mining, the labour movement, defence, law and justice, and a history of parliament were proposed. Two volumes of selected documents, on constitutional and on economic, social and political history ('liberally illustrated'), were abandoned quite late in the piece, as was a survey of political parties and ideas which Beaglehole was to write. It was felt 'that for any Government in office to sponsor such a history might give rise to undesirable criticism of what was produced'; and probably page 167 Beaglehole also decided that committing himself to one survey {Discovery) was enough.17 Other subjects were demoted to the more popular pictorial series, among them sport (to Heenan's disappointment), transport and architecture.

As the standing committee nutted out a shortlist, whittling twenty topics down to eleven between April and May 1938, religion, science, women and war lingered on the 'B' list. Religion they knew was bound to be trouble. Heenan was against its inclusion, unless perhaps each denomination were asked to contribute a section on themselves. Duff thought they should go ahead, but avoid doctrinal and sectarian issues and focus instead on 'the influence of religion ... as a social, moral, and political force', and risk the consequences; but the more cautious view prevailed, upsetting some members of the national committee (in Chappell's view it was 'a blunder of the first magnitude').18 Heenan was also wary of the unpalatable subject of war, particularly 'the phase of the Maori-European war': this, he advised, 'should not be stressed'. The committee tended to agree. In any case, the government had already sponsored the publication of Cowan's two-volume New Zealand Wars, as well as the official record of New Zealand's involvement in the First World War. The decision was confirmed when Howard Kippenberger was asked for his opinion. There was 'no place for a narrative history of our campaigns', the brigadier agreed with Duff, and in his view war had had a minimal effect on the nation or the national character—or at least any effect it had had 'lies too deep and my understanding is too slight to perceive it'. (He doubted, moreover, 'whether the peoples of these islands yet constitute a nation'.)19 Duff's 'social-history' approach was, it would seem, a little ahead of its time.

Whether there needed to be a survey on women also divided the committee, although opinions here were less strong. Contributed Chappell: 'Let the sex-war, now an anachronism, go along with the "New Zealand Wars" and the antipathies of religious denominations—to the limbo where all anachronisms belong.' The Dunedin members thought it would be 'illogical'. Duff admitted, patronisingly, 'a prudential case, perhaps we should call it a domestic-political case, for giving women a volume to themselves if they want one. I do not think they will want one unless someone suggests to them that they should have it.'20 Just as Duff expected that only women would want to read this survey, so it was assumed that a woman should write it. Eileen Duggan, Jane Mander, Muriel Ellis, Robin Hyde and Helen Simpson were considered. Simpson, although not the first choice, proved to be a good one.

Science presented a more intractable problem. No one scientist, it seemed, could write authoritatively about the whole field. The chemist Thomas Easterfield (the founding professor at Victoria) sensibly suggested a collaborative work, but this approach was rejected. It was only when the committee agreed to Heenan's suggestion of his friend and neighbour, railways engineer, sometime journalist and versifier Sidney Jenkinson, that the place of science was assured. This was not such a good choice.

By July 1938 the thirteen survey topics, and twelve of their authors, had been page 168
James Cowan's Settlers and Pioneers was a good read but was it history?. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-5584-16, F-42994-1/2.

James Cowan's Settlers and Pioneers was a good read but was it history?. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-5584-16, F-42994-1/2.

decided. The first in the series, on the Maori, was as yet authorless. The last, allocated to Duff, was a 'postscript' volume of as yet indeterminate subject, provisionally titled 'The Pakeha'.

Three surveys tested the boundaries of political acceptability. Cowan (who had offered to write three surveys himself) was asked to remove a chapter dealing with the Waikato wars from Settlers and Pioneers. Heenan had already made his opinion known that this was a subject best avoided; Cowan, moreover, had taken the Maori side, had even been so provocative as to compare the settler government's treatment of the Waikato Maori with the invading Italians' behaviour in Abyssinia. He believed that this was a truth New Zealanders needed to know: 'I wanted to give it forcibly in order to bring the facts of history home to the readers—& especially Waikato pakehas who are an ignorant lot; like most farmers they don't read anything but the newspapers. This book being a centennial occasion, they might read this.'21 McCormick agreed that the chapter told an important historical truth, but it was simply too outspoken for a government publication. Cowan may have been less upset by this act of censorship, however, than by a suggestion that he was recycling previously published material (which in fact he commonly did). His survey also attracted criticism, from both the editors and some reviewers, for literary and historiographical reasons: for its personal and anecdotal style, its nostalgic tone, and (Cowan having grown up in Waikato) its North Island bias. It was, the Dominion remarked, a good read 'but in no sense a history'.22 Hall was scathing, slating the survey angrily as 'a wickedly episodic bundle of papers': 'This is not an historical survey but a personal maunder. Mr Cowan apparently confuses sentiment and page 169 history. ... It belongs to the tradition of New Zealand history writing which the Centennial Publications programme was designed to supersede.'23 Precisely. Cowan was nearing the end of a prolific professional career writing 'popular' history of this kind, which drew extensively on his personal knowledge of the colourful story of the colonial frontier. They should not have expected anything else. His selection as author had not been contested, though, and he was Heenan's old friend.

W. B. Sutch's contribution on social services also met objection on both political and literary grounds, but principally political. There was a lengthy course of negotiations between Sutch, the editorial committee, Heenan, Peter Fraser and Walter Nash. After more than two revisions, by both the author and editors (McCormick, Hall and Beaglehole), of the final, longest and most contentious chapter, and a complete rewrite of the manuscript by Sutch, the survey was dropped from the series. A. D. Mcintosh's response to the first draft summed up the problem: 'This is not a survey covering the development of social services in New Zealand—it is a history of the NZ working class movement expressed in Marxist terms'; 'brilliant polemic', Hall admitted, but not what was required, although salvageable, he thought, if the 'disproportionate attention to causes at the expense of effects' was corrected, 'the more spirited or accurate political references' emasculated and the language and structure tidied up. Sutch should have known better. 'Anyone with his penetration will . . . realise that a government-sponsored series could not expediently publish much of this political realism.'24 The prime minister had expressly asked to see the
Bill Sutch. His social survey did not bring oout the bright side of the national experience. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-6001-28, F-92659-1/2.

Bill Sutch. His social survey did not bring oout the bright side of the national experience. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-6001-28, F-92659-1/2.

page 170 full manuscript of this survey before it was published, the only such request he made. The final version submitted to him was still altogether too 'bleak', Heenan felt, for a series that was meant, as he elsewhere candidly stated, to show 'the bright side of our national progress', although the 'highly objectionable and contentious sections' had been removed. But Fraser was not having it 'at any price'.23

Beaglehole, on the other hand, took offence not at Sutch's politics but at his style: 'I shouldn't myself object to Bill Sutch's writing the nastiest-minded stuff of the century, if only he'd write it & not chuck it together with a bloody shovel.'26 Sutch was paid his fee—of £100, part of which he received in kind as a copy of the Soviet Atlas of World History and accompanying volume in translation, at his own request—and permitted to take the manuscript elsewhere provided he made no mention of its origin as a government-commissioned work.27

They were taking no chances with Leicester Webb's survey of administration, which was treated from the outset as a 'special case'. In this instance, a few short passages were deleted from the draft and other doubtful sections referred to Heenan, and by him to Fraser. These included discussions of compulsory unionism, cabinet administration, and democratic government, for fear 'that it might be regarded as an oblique reference to recent events'.28 Rumours of censorship flew, but Fraser made no objections and nor did the author. Webb's survey was not entirely without critical comment (most pointedly, on the need for a coherent political philosophy to underpin the role of the state), but it lacked the ideological stance and trenchant tone of Sutch's. It was also, McCormick observed, somewhat lacking in popular appeal, but realistically 'a survey on government could not hope to be a best seller'.29 Webb spent part of his fee on an electric washing machine.

The issue of scholarly versus popular was directly addressed in the discussion over a late entry onto the shortlist: an essay submitted late in 1939 by E. T. Williams from Oxford, dealing with Colonial Office policy towards New Zealand before 1840, and provisionally titled for centennial purposes 'Prelude to Colonisation'. Wood and Beaglehole pressed hard for its inclusion (indeed Beaglehole, who knew Williams from his London days, had effectively commissioned it),.but the others, including McCormick, were just as adamantly opposed. The text was too sophisticated and its presentation too academic for the 'general reader': the 'elaborate and intimidating apparatus of footnotes' would scare them off. (Authors had been instructed that footnotes were not required.) 'The fact that Cowan was too "popular" is no excuse for including such an indigestible lump,' Pascoe complained.30 Certainly it was worthy, and they were prepared to try and find another way to support its publication, but as a centennial survey it would not do.31

Apart from the two that got away, the greatest disappointment of the series was Sidney Jenkinson's New Zealanders and Science. It had been a desperate and unfortunate choice of author (for which Duff, not Heenan, accepted responsibility).

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Leicester Webb's Government in New Zealand traced the evolution of a political system in which power was exercised in the interest of the welfare as well as the liberty of citizens. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-7796-26.

Leicester Webb's Government in New Zealand traced the evolution of a political system in which power was exercised in the interest of the welfare as well as the liberty of citizens. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-7796-26.

Of course, they had wanted something pitched at the non-specialist 'general reader'. Jenkinson wrote them a paean to the great men of New Zealand science, which brought forth from Hall his most devastating reader's report: 'The effect of this monotonous panegyric is deadening rather than irritating. Mr. Jenkinson has been so successful in what the French aptly term "vulgarisation" that he has developed a truly astounding vulgarity of mind . . . the whole work should have its cliches torn out at the roots.'32 Even after extensive editing by a member of the centennial staff (Ruth Fletcher), the effusive tone and biographical focus remained. Jenkinson's contention that, 'In proportion to their numbers, New Zealanders have done more for the progress of science than any other people,' expressed Centennial sentiment at its most banal.33

Monty McClymont reduced his manuscript from 80,000 to 40,000 words before sending it in, regretting that it was now 'as dull as ditchwater' and read 'like a school edition of a history book'.34 The editors agreed that it contained too many facts and too few ideas; it 'embodies the results of a truly appalling amount of research', Hall sighed.35 But exploration was a romantic subject, after all, and this survey was to be one of the most popular in market terms.

The series' bestseller, however, to confound committee members' scepticism, was The Women of New Zealand. Helen Simpson (known to her friends as Bully) had a PhD from the University of London, and had been a lecturer in English at Canterbury University College and a contributor to the Christchurch Press, but this was her first book. 'Please tell me when these wretched scripts are expected,

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AND what is the latest date at which they can be received,' she wrote to McCormick in May 1939, having started work in January. A week later she reassured him: 'I am about to order a case of sherry, 10,000 cigarettes, and 1 cwt. of coffee, and to have put up on the front fence a notice in 6ft. letters.... I haven't yet decided whether it is to read "POISON LAID FOR VISITORS", or, more simply, "KEEP OUT!" I should rather like to have "DANGER: LIVE WIRE", but my strict regard for the truth prevents that.'36 The manuscript arrived in October, and the editorial committee were delighted—even Hall. In fact, The Women of New Zealand was not wholly different from the kind of history the surveys were meant to leave behind: respectful tributes to colonial virtues. It was a sympathetic, but not sentimental, account of the material aspect of settler life, but interpreted and written with 'great sprightliness, wit and originality' (like her correspondence).37 No doubt it was the social history aspect of the book, its quotidian feel, that appealed to readers. Simpson wrote about the domestic hardships of the voyage to New Zealand and the struggle to make homes out of the bush; praised the pioneers' courage and hardiness, but also observed their mistakes. Few reviewers noted the final chapter which made a quick survey of the activities of women in public life. One may detect relief in Hall's observation that 'Dr Simpson is evidently not a passionate feminist and could not work up the ecstasies of indignation of a Virginia Woolf. She feels too the romance of the lives of past women more urgently than that of women to-day.'38 This had been exactly her brief: to look not only at 'women who have earned distinction and played a prominent part in New Zealand's life' but at 'women in general as homemakers and mothers and guardians of refinement and culture', and not 'preach heterodox political and social doctrines'.39 Nor was it remarked that the book was a history of European women in New Zealand ('the real reason for the omission being, of course,' she had told McCormick, 'my utter ignorance and extreme distaste for the thought of remedying it at this eleventh hour').40

Simpson had been a model author. Added to political sensitivities and scholarly scruples to frustrate the editors' well-laid plans, there were also authors who wouldn't, or couldn't, produce. C. E. Beeby relinquished the task guiltily and reluctantly midway through 1940 when he became director of education, and A. E. Campbell, his successor as director of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, took over his survey as well. G. T. Alley, of the Country Library Service, had written nothing about farming by September 1940, so Hall was assigned to collaborate and this one came out under joint authorship. The result was a competent but unremarkable book. Neither farming nor education were subjects that were in themselves likely to excite the popular imagination, but they diligently applied McCormick's theme, which resulted in both cases in a rather less 'bright' assessment than the official centennial history of progress. Campbell's survey, which he wrote to Beeby's plan, and was to remain a standard work in educational circles for many page 173
Helen Simpson's The Women of New Zealand was the best seller. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-6388-19, F-47257-1/2.

Helen Simpson's The Women of New Zealand was the best seller. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, PAColl-6388-19, F-47257-1/2.

years, quite imaginatively interpreted 'adaptation' in terms of the competing forces of history and geography, and lamented that history had won and that the conservative impulse to maintain cultural continuity (with English and Scottish educational traditions) had proved stronger than the need to innovate.

Similarly, the interpretative light that McCormick and Wood cast on their subjects was not a flattering one. Both saw a brief and promising spark of colonial energy superseded at the turn of the century by two or three decades of feeblemindedness and cultural cringe—by an overly imperial, dependent foreign policy, a colonial mother-complex, in Wood's essay on external relations; by a derivative, unimaginative, second-hand Victorian sentimentalism in McCormick's reading of New Zealand literature—from which the country was only beginning to awaken. These were two of the surveys that rose to the challenge, as McCormick had hoped all of them would, of telling the nation's history as more than a 'bare chronicle of events', and less than a paean to pioneering endeavour, and they said as much about failure as they did about success.

How the subject of the Maori might have been interpreted in the light of the adaptation thesis is an interesting question. But Apirana Ngata proved the most elusive author of them all. He was simply too busy, and 'The Maori', intended to be the first in the series, never appeared.41 Heenan was hopefully reminding him of it as late as 1948, but really it had been given up for lost by the end of 1941. Late in 1940

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he had told Ngata that there could be 'no question of abandoning the survey'; someone else would have to do it if he could not,42 But finding another author would have been difficult. It had been accepted that the writer would be Maori; they had only considered Ngata or Peter Buck. The absence of Ngata's survey, along with the suppression of Cowan's chapter on the Waikato wars, highlighted one fundamental thing about the intended comprehensiveness of the surveys, which was the result not of ignorance or lack of will, but of a conceptual framework. For the centennial, New Zealand history was Pakeha history. Maori history was something separate: at best the prologue before the main story began, the Maori at most marginal characters in the central narrative of European colonisation.

Duff had been one of the first in—offering his services as a writer or editor in July 1937—and was the last to produce. It is true that his was intended to be the last in the series, but he had to be cajoled. In September 1940 he had written 10,000 words and was proposing abandoning it and producing a prose anthology instead. This was not acceptable. Heenan cin my very mild way read the riot act to him', and he took two weeks' leave from the Listener to finish it off.43 Quite what this survey was supposed to be had always been rather vague: apparently a companion piece to 'The Maori'—'a study of the white New Zealander as we find him in 1940'.44 But in the absence of Ngata's survey it is difficult to assess it in these terms. In one sense it was more of a companion piece to Simpson's, for there were no women to any purpose in New Zealand Now (although Nature appeared prominently in her female guise). Duff described it on one occasion as a 'recapitulatory volume' which would draw together the main threads of the series, elsewhere as 'not... history so much as social psychology; some by-products of history rather than history itself'.45 It was, as it turned out, a personal and discursive essay on the nature of (Pakeha, male) New Zealandness. After declaring that there was, of course, no such thing as a typical New Zealander, Duff went on to elaborate on a series of unremarkable generalisations about national character (allowing for regional variations). New Zealanders were sport-loving, law-abiding, anti-intellectual and aesthetically inarticulate, distrustful of foreigners, fearful of change. Duff did take up seriously McCormick's adaptation thesis. His overriding theme was the influence of the physical environment— topography and weather—in forming New Zealand's social and cultural life, to the extent of finding the reason for 'our' unexcitable natures in the country's latitude, overlaid with a nostalgia for more heroic times past. Indeed, the pervasive tone was interestingly downbeat for the culminating volume of the series: 'We don't cry out because we are not excited, and we are not excited because we have passed out of the pioneer period, have never known any life but the life we lead, and are neither depressed nor exhilarated by steady, healthy, all-the-year-round labour. For we live exactly half-way between the Equator and the Pole. ... If we are a little dumb, a little lacking in grace and poise, may the answer not be "Latitude Forty-five South?".'46 New Zealand Now had no pretensions to be a scholarly essay; but it was a popular success.

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History, or romance? Duff's contribution could barely be described as either. Overall, the surveys presented history with a little more romance thrown in than intended. But these are imprecise terms; and mixing history and romance was in truth a different matter from combining scholarship and popular appeal.

It is not surprising that, with the exception of Duff's, it was those surveys written by members of the editorial committee itself that nearest approached their scholarly aspirations, and that were important contributions in their fields: Beaglehole's Discovery of New Zealand, McCormick's Letters and Art in New Zealand and Wood's New Zealand in the World. Nor is it surprising that these were not necessarily the most 'popular' in readers' terms. As of early 1944, Beaglehole, Simpson and Duff were sold out. The publisher, Whitcombe & Tombs, had eighteen copies in their shops of Exploration, from a print run of 2000, and 24 of Settlers and Pioneers. There were 250 copies in hand of McCormick, some 300 of Wood, 450 of Webb, and 500 or more of the science, education and farming volumes. It seems, then, that it was romance that sold. For there could be romance in the tale as well as in the telling: there was romance intrinsically, that is, in the stories of discovery, of exploration, of pioneering the land, but hardly in the administrative structure of government, or education.

The surveys told a more complex story than the conventional, 'romantic' one of official centennial rhetoric, and in most of the literature occasioned by the event (including the companion pictorial surveys): an heroic story which celebrated a hundred years of material progress and honoured the pioneers. They were constrained in their critique of that story, nevertheless, by the metanarrative of European colonisation, by the inherently celebratory tone of the centennial, and by the ambitious aim of combining scholarship with popular success. To the extent that they achieved that aim, Heenan could rightly be pleased.

Appendix: The Centennial Historical Surveys

J.C. Beaglehole The Discovery of New Zealand 1939 (no.2)
W.G. McClymont The Exploration of New Zealand 1940 (no.3)
J. Cowan Settlers and Pioneers 1940 (no.4)
L.C. Webb Government in New Zealand 1940 (no.5)
G.T. Alley & D.O.W. Hall The Farmer in New Zealand 1941 (no.6)
H.M. Simpson The Women of New Zealand 1940 (no.7)
A.E. Campbell Educating New Zealand 1941 (no.8)
E.H. McCormick Letters and Art in New Zealand 1940(no.l0)
F.L.W. Wood New Zealand and the World 1940(no.11)
S.H. Jenkinson New Zealanders and Science 1940 (no.12)
O. Duff New Zealand Now 1941 (no.13)

1 W. G. McClymont to O. Duff, 2 July 1938. Internal Affairs IA 1, 62/110/1, National Archives (NA).

2 E. H. McCormick to H. Simpson, 23 June 1939, IA 1, 62/110/11; 'Centennial Surveys', typescript, J.WA. Heenan Papers, Ms-Papers 1132-295, Alexander Turnbull Library (ATL).

3 A. D. Mcintosh to McCormick, [1940], IA 1, 62/10/4.

4 McCormick to Heenan, 11 November 1936, IA 1, 62/48.

5 Heenan to Parry, 24 February 1937, IA 1, 62/7.

6 A dissenting view was expressed by Oliver Duff in the New Zealand Listener. Having agreed with everyone else that the production of the books set a new standard, Duff quibbled about the 'weak' title page and untrimmed edges: 'there is no justification for untrimmed edges on a machine-made book. To trim and stain the top end of a volume and leave the bottom as it happens to fall is to forget that we are nearly half-way through the twentieth century/ New Zealand Listener, 12 April 1940, p.34.

7 C. Hilliard, 'Island stories: the writing of New Zealand history, 1920-1940', MA thesis, University of Auckland, 1997; P. J. Gibbons, '"Going native": a case study of cultural appropriation in a settler society, with particular reference to the activities of Johannes Andersen during the first half of the twentieth century', DPhil thesis, University of Waikato, 1992.

8 A. W. Reed, Books are My Business (Reading: Educational Explorers), 1966, p.57.

9 Beaglehole, quoted in T. H. Beaglehole, '"Home?" J. C. Beaglehole in London, 1926-1929', Turnbull Library Record, vol.14, no.2, October 1981, p.72.

10 E. H. McCormick, An Absurd Ambition: Autobiographical Writings, D. McEldowney ed (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1996), p. 138. Formally called the National Centennial Historical Committee, it was usually known as the National Historical Committee (NHC).

11 McCormick to Heenan, 11 October 1937, IA 1, 62/8/1.

12 'Centennial Surveys', Ms-Papers 1132-295.

13 McCormick, An Absurd Ambition, p.145.

14 NHC annual report, 1937/38, IA 145/2.

15 Beaglehole, 'The New Zealand scholar', in P. Munz ed, The Feel of Truth (Wellington: Reed, 1969),p.247.

16 McCormick, An Absurd Ambition, p.134; Beaglehole, 'The New Zealand scholar', p.245.

17 Heenan to Parry, 5 July 1938, IA 1, 62/7/4.

18 Duff to Heenan, 3 May 1938, IA 145/5; A.B. Chappell to McCormick, 9 May 1938, IA 1,62/8/1.

19 Minutes of a meeting of the standing committee, 13 April 1938, IA 145/1; H. Kippenberger to Duff, 9 June 1938, IA 1, 62/8/1.

20 Chappell to McCormick, 9 May 1938; memo for the NHC, no.20,14 April 1938; Duff to Heenan, 3 May 1938, IA 1, 62/8/1.

21 J. Cowan to McCormick, 24 October 1939, IA 1, 62/110/2.

22 Dominion, 6 April 1940.

23 D. O. W. Hall, 8 September 1939, IA 1, 62/110/2.

24 Mcintosh (nd), Hall, 29 April 1940, IA 1, 62/110/5.

23 D. O. W. Hall, 8 September 1939, IA 1, 62/110/2.

26 Beaglehole to Hall, 22 January 1941, IA 1, 62/110/3.

27 The second version was published with the title Poverty and Progress in New Zealand by the Wellington Co-operative Book Society in 1941, the first as The Quest for Security in New Zealand by Penguin in 1942 and (updated) in 1966.

28 McCormick to Heenan, 30 January 1940, IA 1, 62/110/4.

29 It may too have left something to be desired in terms of accuracy: a large number of corrections were made at page-proof stage, and Victoria's professor of political science, Leslie Lipson, whose own The Politics of Democracy (1948) would supersede Webb's survey as a standard work, found it 'full of errors' and omissions. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November 1940.

30 McCormick, memo (nd), Pascoe to McCormick, 4 April 1940, IA 1, 62/110/13.

31 The essay on 'James Stephen and British intervention in New Zealand, 1838-40' that Williams published in the Journal of History, vol.XIII, no.l, March 1941, pp.19-35 was probably a version of this essay.

32 Hall to McCormick, 22 November 1939, IA 1, 62/110/14.

33 S. H. Jenkinson, New Zealanders and Science (Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs, 1940), p.2.

34 McClymont to McCormick, 10 and 22 August 1939, IA 1, 62/110/1.

35 Hall to McCormick, 28 August 1939, ibid.

36 H. Simpson to McCormick, 12 and 18 May 1939, IA 1, 62/110/11.

37 Hall to McCormick, 16 October 1939, IA 1, 62/110/11.

38 Ibid.

39 Duff to Simpson, 12 July 193 8, McCormick to Simpson, 23 June 1939,1A 1, 62/110/11.

40 Simpson to McCormick, 14 October 1939, ibid.

41 In response to inquiries during 1942 from overseas institutions which had subscribed to the set, the department replied that the Maori and social services surveys had been 'postponed' 'owing to war conditions'. Letter to the University of Toronto librarian, 13 August 1942, IA 1, 62/8/10 Pt.3.

42 Heenan to A. Ngata, 16 September 1940, IA 1, 62/110/9.

43 Heenan to J. W. Davidson, 13 April 1942, Ms-Papers 1132-48.

44 Duff to J. Hight, 27 April 1938, IA 1, 62/8/1.

45 Minutes of a meeting of the NHC, 17 June 1938, IA 145/1; Duff to Heenan, 3 May 1938, IA 145/5.

46 Duff, New Zealand Now, 2nd edition (Hamilton: Paul's Book Arcade, 1956), pp.39-40.