Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A new project: censored letters of the First World War

Chief Censor Colonel Gibbon. S P Andrew Ltd :Portrait negatives. Ref: 1/1-013982-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22787758

From the outbreak of the First World War until November 1920, the private letters of mothers, lovers, soldiers and workmates were subject to a strict censorship. A team of diligent readers in post offices across the country poured over pounds and pounds of mail. Some were stamped and sent on. Others made their way into the hands of Police Commissioners. In an era when post was paramount, the wartime censorship of correspondence heralded the largest state invasion of private life in New Zealand’s history.

Although hundreds of books exist on New Zealand's war effort, and soldier's diaries and letters, “neither the restrictions imposed nor their effects upon the political life of the community has previously been subjected to careful scrutiny,” wrote John Anderson back in 1952. “No adequate attempt has ever been made to trace the development of wartime censorship as a weapon in the armoury of authority.” Despite censorship being mentioned in numerous books and theses since, Anderson’s unpublished work remains the primary study of domestic censorship during the First World War. Indeed, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History dedicated a mere paragraph to the topic.

This is the task I have set myself, and the topic of my forthcoming book. Using the actual censored letters, I hope to share a fascinating insight into postal censorship, state attitudes toward dissent, and the New Zealand home front during the First World War.

The letters also allow us to hear voices often silenced by traditional histories. Most ordinary working-class women and men did not keep diaries, publish their thoughts, or fill the shelves of manuscript libraries with their personal archives. Writing about the remarkable exception of Wairarapa labourer James Cox, Miles Fairburn notes how illiteracy, work-related fatigue, the stress of economic insecurity, and lack of spare time deprived many workers of the opportunity to keep diaries. Letter writing was far more common, yet even these snippets of working-class life are wholly dependent on whether they were kept, or in the case of this book, detained.

It is early days however! I have only just begun my research and writing, but it is a topic I've covered in my previous work. Watch this space for updates and snippets.

no adequate attempt has” Anderson, ‘Military Censorship in World War 1: Its Use and Abuse in New Zealand’, Thesis, p. 5.
Miles Fairburn notes how” Miles Fairburn, Nearly Out of Heart and Hope: The Puzzle of a Colonial Labourer’s Diary, Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1995, p. 6.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Damned Evangelist - Rhythm and Movement

National Film Unit production 'Rhythm and Movement' (1948) re-mixed with songs by my old band, The Damned Evangelist (RIP).

The playlist for this video includes: 'Thee Arival' and 'The Day The Earth Stood Still', which come from our 2008 7" vinyl EP 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' (Stink Magnetic). More on The Damned Evangelist can be found at http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/the-g... and https://myspace.com/thedamnedevangelist

This re-mix involved no editing at all (although the end title was brought forward). I'm stoked how nicely the film matches up captures the weird, cult-like groove.

More on the original National Film Unit production held at Archives New Zealand can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVIIf...