Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wobblies of the World: New Zealand Launch!

Join New Zealand contributors, Mark Derby and Peter Clayworth, plus special guests, for a presentation of this new history of the global nature of the radical union, the Industrial Workers of the World.

Both Mark and Peter are New Zealand historians, who have a strong association with labour and trade union history through the Labour History Project. Their chapters in the book focus on the New Zealand Wobblies Percy Short and Pat Hickey, respectively.

30 November at Auckland Trades Hall
5:30 - drinks and nibbles
6pm- presentation
Facebook event:

More on the book here:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Beyond the Suffrage Petition - History from Below

Women working in the Roslyn Woollen Mill. MNZ-0704-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library /records/23246571

Making the invisible visible, and telling history from below – these are some of the key themes that have stuck with me from our biographical work on the 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition.

The lives of ordinary, working-class, nineteenth-century women can be hard to find in government archives. The opportunity to rescue their stories and make them visible has been a major success of the project. We now know a lot more about women who may not have been active organisers or community leaders, but who nonetheless added their name to the cause of women’s franchise – women such as Elizabeth Rosevear, housekeeper; Henrietta McKaigue, domestic servant; and Fanny Oliver, the wife of a bricklayer. These are individuals who, by acting together, made history.

This is not only a type of history from below – an historical narrative that emphasises the perspective of common people rather than leaders – but a history by and for below. This has very much been a project of collaboration and crowdsourcing, motivated by love of the documents and the stories they tell rather than for material gain or academic prestige. 

Thanks to the passion and energy of family historians, students, librarians, archivists, and other researchers, these stories are now not only visible, but accessible. Anyone with an internet connection can explore the online database, read the research, and make their own contribution through the comments function. It is only fitting that the suffragists’ struggle for wider participation in society finds its ideals echoed, all these years later, in the way these biographies have been created and shared.

My contribution to 'Beyond the Suffrage Petition', a Facebook Note by NZHistory.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Jack’s Journey - A Soldier’s Experience of the First World War

Sharing this new book, written by my friend and colleague Trish McCormack, which I also happened to design the cover for. Learn more about Jack's journey here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dissent during the First World War Conference, 31 Aug - 2 Sep 2017

Thomas Moynihan, conscientious objector, Wanganui Detention Barracks 1918. Archives New Zealand

Hosted by the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies and the Labour History Project, with support from The Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and The Archives and Records Association of NZ (ARANZ), this two day conference will cover a range of topics on dissent, and how the First World War divided New Zealand society in many ways. In the current commemorative climate little attention has been paid to the perceptions and actions of those who opposed the war. 

More information can be found on the Conference event page, and here is the Conference Programme (pdf).

I'll be speaking at the Conference on Friday morning, and chairing a session in the afternoon. Here's my abstract, which presents work from my forthcoming book:

A War of Words: Domestic Postal Censorship and Dissent
Most histories of the First World War recall the muddied horror of the Western Front. But there was also a war at home, complete with violence, hardship and bravery. It was a war of ideas, and a key weapon in the armoury of authority was censorship.

Between August 1914 and November 1920, over 1.2 million civilian letters were opened and examined by the New Zealand military. Some were stamped and sent on. Others made their way into the hands of Police Commissioners, leading to covert surveillance, dawn raids, arrests, and deportation.

Employing a microhistory approach to a secret collection of confiscated letters, this paper explores domestic postal censorship, state attitudes towards dissent, and the people whose letters were originally blocked by military command. It suggests that wartime censorship was rooted in a need for imposing class discipline and maintaining capitalist/statist relations during what was a potentially turbulent time. Like the phenomenon of disaster capitalism, this expanded and made permanent ways of monitoring dissent for years to come.

Monday, July 3, 2017

New authors page

I'm the first to admit how poorly I've been maintaining this blog. Most of my time has been spent on writing a book, which is not far from being finished. Hopefully I'll be able to add more to this blog from the book, and from other musings.

One thing that is new is my authors page, which I've set up over at There's no blogging happening there, but it is where I record my past and present work in the hope of making it more accessible.

In the meantime, if you want to read interesting history blogs with changing content, I've been enjoying The Many-headed Monster and The Age of Revolutions.