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New writer in residence investigates missionary Marsden

Friday 7 December, 2012

New writer in residence investigates missionary Marsden

The University of Waikato has appointed Andrew Sharp as its writer in residence for 2013. He’s an Emeritus Professor of Political Studies at the University of Auckland who’s had a long career teaching and writing about the history of political thinking. His work has often centred on the use of law and religion in political argument, especially in 17th century England and 20th century New Zealand.

At Waikato, Professor Sharp plans to complete a “very long book” on Samuel Marsden who settled the first Christian mission in New Zealand in 1814. “I’ve already written many of the projected 25 chapters and I’ll be working on the final few during my Waikato residency. The year 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the mission, and I want to commemorate that with the book.”

The book tells the story of Marsden’s attempts - born of an evangelical education in England - to introduce civilisation and fight the devil in New South Wales and New Zealand. “It’s not a biography – more a history of his life and opinions, and the lives and opinions of the people he lived among,” says Professor Sharp.

He has written and edited several books already including The Political Ideas of the English Civil Wars, Justice and the Maori, The English Levellers, Histories Power and Loss: Uses of the Past – a New Zealand Commentary (with P G McHugh), and he has edited a collection of Bruce Jesson’s writings, To Build a Nation: Collected Writings 1975-99.

Professor Sharp has lived in London since 2006. “Having the Waikato residency means I can complete my New Zealand research. I still have a lot to do, not just in libraries, but also on location –in the missionary settlements in the Bay of Islands and following Marsden’s journeys to the Firth of Thames via an inland route to Tauranga and his trek from Tamaki to the Bay of islands via the Kaipara Harbour.”

His academic career has taken him all over the world. He completed his Master’s degree at Canterbury then a Doctorate at Cambridge. He was a Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Fellow in the US and a Research Fellow at Australian National University. He also led a Marsden-funded research project that looked at Māori politics and history. In 2006 he was awarded an ONZM for services to Political Studies in New Zealand. Since retiring he has been a Professorial Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and (as he now is) a Research Fellow in in History at Birkbeck, University of London.

Dr Sarah Shieff from the English Programme at the University of Waikato says Andrew Sharp’s project is an exciting one, and his work will add a hugely important dimension to what we already know about Samuel Marsden and his intellectual environment.

The University of Waikato writer’s residency is jointly funded by the University and Creative New Zealand/Toi Aotearoa. It is designed to support poets, novelists, short story writers, dramatists and writers of serious non-fiction. The appointment is made annually on the basis of a track record of high-quality publication.


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