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Historian leaves bequest to Massey University

Dr Alison Hanham at the farewell for retiring Associate Professor John Owens in 1992

Former Associate Professor in History Dr Alison Hanham has left a large bequest to the Massey University Foundation in her will.

Dr Hanham died in September last year in Palmerston North. She also bequeathed her substantial New Zealand and Pacific art collection to Palmerston North’s Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History.

She was educated at Ngā Tawa Diocesan School, Marton, then at Auckland University College (1946-49), where she graduated with a Master of Arts degree with first-class Honours in English (1950). She completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Bristol in 1954 and lived overseas, mostly in Manchester and Edinburgh, until joining Massey as a history lecturer in 1974. She was promoted to Reader/Associate Professor a few years later. Her teaching and research concentrated on English medieval history, especially the 15th century. Students and colleagues valued her vast knowledge and love of her subject, her wisdom and wit, her kindness and generosity. Her historical research and many publications focused on King Richard III and English family papers and letters, especially of the Cely family. Her most recently published book was John Benet's Chronicle, 1399-1462: An English Translation with New Introduction (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

Local history was always of great interest to Dr Hanham. One of her books is a history of Cramond (1651-1851), near Edinburgh, where she lived for some years. In Palmerston North, she was a committee member of the Historic Places Trust (Manawatū).

Her longstanding interest in art and culture and her acquisition of works became particularly important after her retirement from Massey at the end of 1993. Time spent in the Cook Islands when she was young and her return to New Zealand after an absence of years, stimulated her interest in New Zealand and Pacific works, and led to her acquisition of jade and stone carvings, hand-blown glass, and in particular the work of John Bevan Ford, a personal friend. His coloured ink drawings surrounded her in her house and his blue kaitiaki hooded figure carving watched over her garden.

Foundation director Mitch Murdoch says the University’s charitable arm is extremely grateful for the generous gift of $215,000 and would try to ensure it was used in a way that was relevant and appropriate to Dr Hanham’s teaching and research interests.