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Otago historian wins prestigious national prize for best history book

The Hocken Library

Friday 4 December 2015 3:29pm

Tony Ballantyne sm image
Professor Tony Ballantyne

History Professor Tony Ballantyne’s book Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Māori and the Question of Body, has won the premier annual prize for a history book on New Zealand history. The win was announced in Christchurch at the New Zealand Historical Association’s AGM last night (3 December).

Professor Ballantyne says he is delighted to have won the inaugural W.H. Oliver Award for the best book published on New Zealand History, but he is especially happy for the spotlight this award shines on Otago’s Department of History and Art History, and also the Hocken Library (archive) Collections.

“I did not expect it, given the particularly strong field, including two of my colleagues in history at Otago. This prize is an affirmation of the great strength of historical research and teaching on our campus and our deep commitment here at Otago to understanding the forces that have shaped New Zealand society,”

“On a personal level, it is wonderful for me to receive this award from my professional organisation, the New Zealand Historical Association, and it is also an honour for my book Entanglements of Empire to be linked to the name Bill Oliver, an outstanding historian who wrote with great insight and elegance on our past.

“This award for Entanglements also reflects the tremendous riches of the Hocken Library Collections, as most of the research for this book was conducted using the Hocken’s vast and significant manuscript collection.”

He also thanked the book’s publisher’s, Auckland University Press (AUP), assisted by Duke University Press, for their work bringing the book to fruition.

AUP director Sam Elworthy says W. H. Oliver was a deep thinker about New Zealand and our place in the world.

“Tony Ballantyne shares those same qualities. So we’re thrilled to have co-published Tony’s Entanglements of Empire with Duke University Press,” he says.

The judges for the award described Entanglements of Empire as “an elegant and sophisticated work, which takes New Zealand historical scholarship to a new level of analysis and interpretation.

“Drawing on ideas of space, place and the body, and concepts of entanglement employed in recent South African historiography, along with the work of scholars George Stocking and Greg Dening and local historians, Ballantyne revisits the moments of physical and cultural encounter in the early colonial period -specifically the cross-cultural entanglements with Protestant missionaries in the far north of New Zealand - and re-interprets the experiences through a critical postcolonial lens.

“The focus in this volume on contact and bodies means that the focus here is on the ‘bodies in contact’ on the frontier zone and the differing epistemological systems and establishments that these bodies both occupied and represented…..

“Ballantyne’s eloquent and effortless narrative style and his quietly confident and assured authorial voice make this text deeply engaging and highly readable. The careful analysis and attention to detail, along with Ballantyne’s extensive primary and secondary research makes a significant contribution to New Zealand history and historiography.

The judges add that “Entanglements of Empire is one of the standout texts in this year’s entries and represents an important contribution to the historiography of empires and the new imperial history”.

For further information, contact:

Professor Tony Ballantyne
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Humanities
University of Otago

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