Research projects

I research widely across Australian and New Zealand history. This page links to information about some of my projects.

New Zealand’s provincial system of government

Today, New Zealand is a unitary polity. Yet, from 1853 to 1876, it possessed a lively quasi-federal system of provincial legislatures. Why were the provinces created? What did they do? And, most importantly—what happened to them?

Territorial separation movements in colonial Australasia

The borders of Australia and New Zealand were not inevitable. They emerged through complex historical processes. Campaigns to create new colonies and provinces proliferated throughout colonial Australasia—but only a few succeeded.

Rēkohu and histories of violence

The Moriori people of Rēkohu (Chatham Islands) survive and retain their mana despite great historical trauma. I have written on this history, informed by my broader experience teaching histories of genocide and violence in (post-)colonial settings.

The enviro-economic history of railways in Australasia before WWI

Colonial governments used railways to broaden and deepen settler economic activity. In the process, they transformed their environments. These environments, in turn, transformed the railways.

New Zealand’s shrinking passenger rail network

In 1920, if you saw a railway line in New Zealand, you could assume a train that carried passengers would come along sooner or later. In 2020, there are almost no passenger trains outside Wellington and Auckland’s suburban zones. Mapmaker Sam van der Weerden and I have collaborated to explain what happened in words and images.

Institutional reform in Australian higher education

The Dawkins reforms transformed Australian higher education in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I participated in a large research project across multiple institutions and took a particular interest in how institutions handled pressures to amalgamate.

The old Hapuawhenua viaduct as seen from under the new one, October 2018.
Trains on the North Island Main Trunk Railway used this viaduct from 1908 until 1987.

Other fields of research

My research extends beyond the above projects. I am collecting material on a range of topics with the intention of writing on them sooner or later. If you share an interest in these topics, please be in touch. I am quite happy to consider collaboration or commissions, and I welcome any leads or information. Topics include, in alphabetical order:

Alfred Luther Beattie: New Zealand Railways’ innovative chief mechanical engineer from 1900 to 1913.

Drowning in Australasia: drowning was termed the “New Zealand death” in the colonial era. I have begun collecting material with a view to a broader Australasian history.

Haast Pass, New Zealand: a history of this stunning, wild mountain pass through the Southern Alps.

Histories of the press: I have a general interest in the function, influence, and evolution of the press in Australasia.

New Zealand railway disasters: the enduring effects of the Tangiwai disaster of 24 December 1953, the Hyde disaster of 4 June 1943, and other tragedies on the track.

Railcars of New Zealand: I have collected a large volume of material for a history of the experimental railcars of 1906–36.

Railway lines that New Zealand never built: there were a lot of proposed railways that never opened—even though construction started on some. These proposals rarely receive much attention even in railway histories, but we can learn much from these unfulfilled visions.

Railway safety in colonial Australasia: I have made a modest attempt to compile some injury/fatality statistics from Australasian railway reports, which encompass both workers and passengers.

Strikes in Australian history: as a research assistant for Prof. Stuart Macintyre, I prepared an overview of strikes that occurred in the immediate aftermath of WWII. This indicated the extent and diversity of strikes; famous large-scale events are only the tip of the iceberg and I am interested in returning to this work.

Time in New Zealand and Australia: New Zealand adopted the world’s first mean time in 1868. I am interested in the evolution of public times and standardised timezones throughout Australasia.

Women and mobility on the rails: I have collected some information on how NZ Railways addressed (and limited) women’s mobility in the steam era, and I am interested in developing this further, possibly to encompass Australasia more broadly.

My published research

For all of my peer-reviewed publications and a selection of my other work:

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