Bridget Williams honoured by University of Otago
Bridget Williams, the founder of New Zealand’s leading specialist non-fiction press and alumna of the University of Otago, will receive an honorary Doctorate of Literature on 18 May.
Bridget Williams (ONZM MBE) is considered a hugely influential figure in New Zealand letters and publishing, and an outstanding graduate of the University of Otago, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts.
Her initial foray into intellectual life was in Oxford as a research assistant to literary scholars Dame Helen Gardner and Richard Ellmann. After a stint at Oxford University Press in the United Kingdom, Ms Williams returned to New Zealand in 1976. She worked initially for the New Zealand branch of Oxford University Press, where she helped shape what would become the Oxford History of New Zealand, a volume that marked the coming of age of New Zealand historical scholarship.
In 1981, she struck out into independent publishing, founding Port Nicholson Press in Wellington. Taking this small New Zealand firm into multi-national ownership with Allen & Unwin Australia in the mid-1980s, Ms Williams became the managing director of Allen & Unwin New Zealand. In that capacity, she established a publishing partnership with the multi-volume Dictionary of New Zealand Biography as well as important scholarly works such as Claudia Orange’s The Treaty of Waitangi. In these years too, her publishing reflected the new engagement with feminist writing, and she had a key role in establishing the nationwide Listener Women’s Book Festival.
In 1990 she established Bridget Williams Books, a press that has risen to become New Zealand’s leading specialist non-fiction press. She has worked with New Zealand’s leading social scientists and humanities scholars, producing a large number of award-winning volumes. Significant amongst these has been a commitment to works on Maori history, with the landmark Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha Harris published to acclaim in 2014. In recent years the BWB Texts Series – short, moderately-priced volumes – have catalysed public debate over a range of pressing cultural and political issues.
Hugely respected in the world of publishing, Bridget Williams has played an integral role in facilitating public conversations in New Zealand, its history, identity and politics, she has been extremely influential in shaping New Zealand intellectual life and cultural debate.
- Sat 18 May graduation ceremony at 1 pm (Humanities) Bridget Williams, Publisher, Hon LittD
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