Historian Judith Binney dies, aged 70

Dame Judith Binney died at home in Auckland on Tuesday, 15 February 2011 after a long illness. Text below supplied by Bridget Williams.

Dame Judith was one of New Zealand’s most remarkable writers and historians. As Wharehuia Milroy wrote, ‘Encircled Lands takes the reader through Tūhoe trials and tribulations in a way which no other history book on Māori has ever achieved.’

Emeritus Professor Alan Ward also acknowledged her work: ‘Encircled Lands is arguably the most important book on Māori–Pākehā relations to be published in the last quarter-century, unlikely to be equalled in this generation.’

Dame Judith was widely honoured for her work in New Zealand history. Tūhoe gave her the name Te Tomairangi o Te Aroha ( ‘the little rain of love’) at the 2009 launch of Encircled Lands: Te Urewera 1820–1921. This book went on to win the 2010 New Zealand Post Book of the Year.

Her contribution to the writing of New Zealand (and particuarly Māori) history was acknowledged in the Prime Minister's Award in 2006. She was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006; she was a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and an inaugural Fellow of the New Zealand Academy of Humanities. Judith Binney had served on the boards of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, the Historic Places Trust and Creative New Zealand.

Born in Australia in 1940, she arrived in New Zealand in 1947. Judith Binney was Professor Emeritus at the University of Auckland, where she taught history for many years.

Her own words speak of her dedication to the writing and teaching of history in New Zealand: ‘If we who live in the present in Aotearoa can discuss our shared history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, then we may gain from the past. If we cannot do this, then we will have learnt nothing from the past and we will have exchanged nothing with each other.’

Judith Binney’s books include:

  • The Legacy of Guilt: A Life of Thomas Kendall (AUP, 1968; BWB, 2005), F.P. Wilson Award
  • Mihaia: The Prophet Rua Kenana and His Community at Maungapohatu (OUP, 1979; AUP/BWB, 1996; with Gillian Chaplin and Craig Wallace)
  • Nga Morehu: The Survivors (OUP, 1986; AUP/BWB, 1996, with Gillian Chaplin)
  • Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (1995), Montana New Zealand Book of the Year Award
  • The Shaping of History: Essays from the New Zealand Journal of History (BWB, 2001; edited by Judith Binney)
  • Encircled Lands: Te Urewera 1820–1921 (BWB, 2009), NZ Post Book of the Year Award 2010
  • Stories Without End: Essays 1975–2010 (BWB, 2010)

IMAGE: Judith Binney, supplied by Bridget Williams.