Story: History and historians

Page 4. The growth of history – since 1970

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More academic historians

From the 1970s the output and range of history production in New Zealand expanded significantly. As the baby boomers reached adulthood and society demanded an educated urban workforce, a growing number of young New Zealanders came to university and many studied history. This increased the number of historians teaching in universities, and also produced a growing audience within the community of people who had studied history and knew about professional standards of documentation and evidence.

Alongside academics researching and writing history there were university-educated people outside the academy who were able to write serious history. Old distinctions between nostalgic anecdotal popular history and academic history broke down. There were new awards and forms of support for freelance historians such as Michael King.

Cultural nationalism

The baby boomer generation and developments such as the loss of the traditional market for New Zealand exports when Britain joined the European common market also brought about a self-conscious cultural nationalism, which encouraged New Zealanders to explore their history. More New Zealand publishers appeared, interested in producing books about history for an expanding audience. New and relaunched museums such as the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa gave increasing space to history; and many New Zealand films and novels drew upon historical situations.

Government history

Government projects provided support for serious history, often in new formats. This included the Dictionary of New Zealand biography, the Bateman New Zealand historical atlas: ko papatuanuku e takoto nei, Te Ara, the online encyclopedia of New Zealand, and both war and departmental histories from the Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs (later the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage).

In 1984 the responsibility of the Waitangi Tribunal, which investigates Crown breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, was backdated to cover historical cases and not just those since 1975. This hugely expanded the requirement for historical researchers and heightened interest in Māori history.

The Waitangi Tribunal effect

One of the remarkable consequences of the Waitangi Tribunal was that it provided a huge stimulus for iwi to recover their own history. The preparation of claims and then the oral testimony given at hearings by Māori elders brought into the open much iwi history which had been buried and forgotten by many people.

Professional organisations

The increase of researching historians was reflected in the emergence of new organisations. These included:

  • the New Zealand Historical Association in 1979
  • the National Oral History Association of New Zealand (NOHANZ) in 1990
  • Te Pouhere Kōrero for Māori historians in 1992
  • the Professional Historians Association of New Zealand/Aotearoa (PHANZA) in 1994.
How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'History and historians - The growth of history – since 1970', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 May 2024)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 22 Oct 2014