SCHOLEFIELD, Guy Hardy, C.M.G., O.B.E.
Librarian, historian, and journalist.
A new biography of Scholefield, Guy Hardy appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Guy Hardy Scholefield was born at Dunedin on 17 June 1877, the son of John H. Scholefield, and grandson of John Hardy, Otago Provincial Secretary from 1861 to 1864. In 1908 he married Adela, daughter of M. R. Bree. He was educated at the Tokomairiro District High School, of which he was dux in 1894, and at Victoria University College. Subsequently he studied at the University of London, graduating B.Sc. in 1915 and D.Sc. in 1919. During his university education he established himself both in journalism and in the writing of history. In 1896 he joined the staff of the Bruce Herald, and three years later the staff of the New Zealand Times. From 1903 to 1904 he was associate editor of the Christchurch Press, and in 1906 chief of staff of the New Zealand Times. From 1908 to 1919 he was London correspondent of the New Zealand Press Association and a war correspondent. During this period he founded and edited The New Zealander (1916–19). He returned to New Zealand in 1919, when he was awarded the O.B.E. From 1921 to 1926 he edited the Wairarapa Age, and then became Parliamentary Librarian and Dominion Archivist, a position he held until 1948. In that year he was awarded the C.M.G. His long connection with journalism had an influence upon his scholarly activities, both in style and in subject-matter. His Twelve Prime Ministers (1946) is the work of a writer who is a journalist as well as a historian; and one of his last publications, Newspapers in New Zealand (1958), originally commissioned for the 1940 Centennial by the Newspaper Proprietors Association, is among his most important works. Further, as he testifies in the preface to this work, as Parliamentary Librarian he had paid special attention to his library's newspaper collection. He edited the first Union Catalogue of New Zealand Newspapers in 1938.
His first historical work was published soon after his arrival in England, New Zealand in Evolution (1909). The nature of this book is well indicated by its sub-title – “Industrial, Economic, and Political” – and by the fact that it is organised into chapters exploring various economic activities rather than into a narrative. No longer useful as a text book, it retains its value as an intelligent native's description of New Zealand in the early twentieth century. Ten years later he produced New Zealand and The Pacific. Thereafter there was a gap until the 1930s, which saw the History of the Tokomairiro District High School (1932), and then his only full-length biography, New Zealand's First Governor (1934), a life of Captain William Hobson. This work remains informative, though subsequent research and discussion on the circumstances of British annexation of New Zealand have left its overall approach well behind. Apart from his contributions to the Cambridge History of the British Empire (1933), the rest of Scholefield's publications relate to two further aspects of his life – first, his position as Parliamentary Librarian and, second, his role as an editor of biographical dictionaries.
In 1908, in conjunction with E. Schwabe, he edited Who's Who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific, the first of a series of volumes he was to edit until close to the end of his life. This kind of activity became more scholarly when he edited the two-volume Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (1940), which has been since its publication an essential tool for students of New Zealand history.
His position as Parliamentary Librarian is reflected in two works already referred to (Twelve Prime Ministers and Newspapers in New Zealand), and more particularly in the Parliamentary Record 1840–1949 (1950), a compendium of detailed information about the political history of New Zealand. The General Assembly Library holds, as well as an impressive range of newspapers, several important manuscript collections. To one of these collections Scholefield devoted a great deal of editorial labour, labour which resulted in the publication in 1961 of the massive two-volume The Richmond-Atkinson Papers (qq.v.). These volumes reproduce many of the letters and journals of members of these two linked families from the time of their arrival in the 1840s to the end of the century. They contain a vast quantity of interesting and useful material. This work was Scholefield's last publication.
During his long and active life Scholefield belonged to a number of learned and professional societies and led a prominent public life. He was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Hakluyt Society; secretary and life member of the Institute of Pacific Relations; president of the Wellington Historical Society; chairman of the Wellington Provincial Historical Committee in 1939, and a member of the National Historical Committee in 1938, two organisations concerned with centennial publications. He was also first president of the New Zealand PEN (1934–37), a fellow of the Library Association (Great Britain), president of the New Zealand Library Association in 1940, and chairman of the State Literary Fund Advisory Committee from 1948 to 1950. In 1935 he was awarded a Carnegie travelling fellowship. He was also a frequent broadcaster on international affairs. He died at Wellington on 19 July 1963.
There can be no doubt that Scholefield was an important figure in the early period of New Zealand historical writing. As William Pember Reeves comments in his introduction to New Zealand in Evolution, the scenery, the pioneers, the racial struggles, and the political experiments of the colony had been written about in many books, “But, so far, the evolution of our trade and industry have never been adequately examined….” To have opened up so important a field is a considerable feat. Economic history has gone some distance since, but this was a sound beginning. Similarly, political history and biography have become considerably more sophisticated and complex over recent years, but Scholefield's work in these spheres, if not a beginning, was a very useful contribution. Again, though the Richmond-Atkinson volumes are not beyond criticism, they are, at the time of writing, unique examples of their genre in New Zealand. In all, the scholarly achievement of Scholefield may aptly be designated a useful contribution to New Zealand's awareness of its past.
by William Hosking Oliver, M.A.(N.Z.), D.PHIL.(OXON.), Professor of History, Massey University of Manawatu.
- New Zealand Libraries, Aug 1963 (Obit)
- New Zealand Listener, 9 Aug 1963 (Obit)
- Evening Post, 19 Jul 1963 (Obit).