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W.H. (Bill) Oliver, the foundation Professor of History at Massey University, was one of New Zealand’s premier intellectuals. His work, produced over more than half a century, invites us to reflect on who we are as a people. This thread runs through his books which include: The Story of New Zealand (1960), The Oxford History of New Zealand (1981), The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Vol. 1 (1990) and his memoir Looking for the Phoenix (2002). Each publication posed the question afresh and brought a new audience into the conversation.
The significance of this contribution was confirmed in 2008 when he received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.
Taken as a whole Bill Oliver’s work provides what could be termed a manifesto for the Humanities. Bill has never been a great lover of manifestos, so he may prefer to describe it as an approach or even a sensibility. As benchmarks and guiding principles, these are some of the invaluable qualities which run through Bill’s work:
These notions continue to provide a call to arms for humanities researchers at Massey University and we are delighted that Bill agreed to allow us to name the academy after him.
The Massey tradition, built in tandem with John Dunmore, the Foundation Professor of French, an equally formidable writer and intellectual leader, has been built on by Massey scholars over a number of generations. The creation of the W.H. Oliver Humanities Research Academy is a reaffirmation of the role, responsibility and opportunity for the humanities at Massey University.
Associate Professor Kerry Taylor
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Last updated on Tuesday 16 August 2016