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Historians to tell New Zealand’s WWI story

Monday, July 30, 2012
Historians to tell New Zealand’s WWI story

The Centenary History project group is calling for historians to help tell the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War.

Massey University, the New Zealand Defence Force, Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association have joined together to produce a series on New Zealand’s efforts in the First World War.

The project, called the Centenary History of New Zealand and the First World War, will form part of the centenary commemorations of the conflict. Individual volumes will be written by professional New Zealand historians and tell many untold stories of the war.

Professor Glyn Harper is leading Massey University’s contribution to the project and is writing one of the volumes in the series.

“It’s an exciting project because the First World War was a pivotal event in New Zealand’s history and shaped the world we live in and New Zealand as a nation,” Professor Harper says. “This project presents an opportunity to tell the complete story of New Zealand’s involvement in the conflict.”

The first books, written by Ministry for Culture and Heritage historians Damien Fenton and Gavin McLean, will be published in late 2013. Later volumes will be released to coincide with significant commemorative dates during 2014-18. The full programme, providing funding is secured, may involve as many as 12 volumes each focused on different aspects of World War 1.

Historians are currently working on six books, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage will soon advertise for an historian to write a history of the Māori experience of WW1. The group is now calling for expressions of interests from historians for further volumes. Subject to funding, these volumes will cover:

- The Home Front
- New Zealand and the War at Sea
- New Zealand and the Air War
- The War against the Ottoman Turks
- New Zealand Medical Services in the War
- New Zealanders serving in other Forces

The Massey University Foundation is collecting contributions on behalf of this project online at

Earlier this month the Government announced its First World War Centenary panel and launched the First World War Commemoration symbol – a stylised poppy that will be used to identify and link commemorative events.

The panel was set up as an advisory group to help steer commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the war. Panel members Brian Roche, Peter Biggs, Bob Harvey, Carol Hirschfeld, Sir Peter Jackson, Dame Anne Salmond, Monty Soutar, Matthew Te Pou and Cervantee Wild as well as former ministers, Rick Barker and Wayne Mapp.

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