Some light research

Cable car at Salamanca descending from Kelburn to Lambton Quay

I thought it was about time that I updated my research pages. So, because I know how to party, I did it on a Friday evening. Covid life means living differently, I suppose.

Let me give you a quick tour. It starts at my overview page, which links to more detailed pages on multiple projects and contains a list of other interests.

I have created detailed pages for six projects:

  • My first research love is New Zealand’s provincial system of government. The provinces have a history that is not only lively and entertaining, but also essential to understanding New Zealand’s colonial history and the course of its political history. I have written a book and numerous articles on this topic, and I have no intention to stop. The provinces rule.
  • My next book is a collaboration with mapmaker Sam van der Weerden on New Zealand’s shrinking passenger rail network from 1920 to 2020. Otago University Press will publish it later in 2021 (September, TBC). If you’re wondering what on earth happened to New Zealand’s passenger trains, this book will hopefully answer your questions—and it concludes with a vision for a less car-centric future.
  • My other major project right now is an enviro-economic history of railways in Australasia prior to World War I. It encompasses all seven government systems in Australia and New Zealand. I’ve already published a range of journal articles, and in March I am taking up a 12-week fellowship at the National Library of Australia as a big push towards completing a book manuscript.
  • Once I am done with the enviro-railways project, I am turning to territorial separation movements in colonial Australasia. Back in 2016, I had two projects on the go: enviro-railways and this. Wollongong Uni backed me for enviro-railways, and now that it’s almost done, I look forward to returning to this project.
  • I spent six years teaching genocide studies at the University of Melbourne, and this fostered an interest in Rēkohu and the history of violence. I have written a few pieces on Moriori and the violence that took place on Rēkohu (Chatham Islands), and there is much more to be done.
  • I had the good fortune to be a research assistant on a project about institutional reform in Australian higher education, which snowballed into a much larger role. It suited my interest in how institutions are created, evolve, and, sometimes, fail.

My main research page lists other topics in which I take a significant interest. These range from New Zealand railway disasters to strikes in Australian history; drowning in Australasia to women’s mobility on the rails; a regional history of Haast Pass to influential railway engineer Alfred Luther Beattie.

I’m always interested in hearing from people with similar interests, whether to learn more, work together, or take up a commission. My contact details are here.

But before I go, I would like to gift a topic to other researchers—a topic I am not in a position to do right now, but would love to see researched more thoroughly: New Zealand’s political history will be enriched by further work on local government from 1877 to 1989.

After the demise of the provinces in 1876, New Zealand acquired a system of system of counties and single-purpose local boards. This grew increasingly complex over time, with boards for rivers, railways, harbours, rabbits, you name it. These lasted until the reforms of 1989, which created the present system of regional and territorial authorities.

There has been some work done on this, not least by Graham Bush, and I am aware that John Cookson has been researching it recently. It is, however, a vast field that could keep many historians occupied. We know too little about the course and character of local government, especially as a system rather than histories of individual authorities. I would love to see a general history of local government 1877–1989, and more focused studies of important periods and topics. These bodies played a huge role in the daily lives of New Zealanders.

I like to end my blog entries with some photos, so here are a few samples from my research on New Zealand’s provinces during 2013.

Important stuff, right here.
A still-useful thesis I read in the Victoria University of Wellington library.
Your lift to and from Vic, photographed by me on arrival at Salamanca, 24 June 2013.
Auckland Uni’s library wanted US$60 (yes, US$, for some reason) for a copy of old MA/PhD theses. I needed to look at nine. US$540! I soon realised it would be cheaper to fly home from Wellington to Melbourne via Auckland and look at them in person. Here I am, very relieved and satisfied after crashing through the lot in one day.

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