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Judith Mary Caroline Binney




Dame Judith Binney FRSNZ

Dame Judith Binney FRSNZ


Professor Emeritus Dame Judith Binney died at her home on 15 February 2011 quite suddenly but after some months battling against cancer. This was particularly poignant given her courageous fight back from a horrendous road accident in December 2009.

Judi came to New Zealand from Australia, where she was born in 1940, when her father, Professor Sydney Musgrove, joined the staff of The University of Auckland as Professor of English in 1947. Judi took her degrees at Auckland, was a Fowlds Memorial Scholar in 1964, and taught at the University from 1966 until 2004 when she retired. She was awarded a personal chair in 1997 and recognised as a Distinguished Alumna in 2007. When Judi joined the University it was a small place and she had friends across the campus, especially in the Department of English and Elam. Sebastian Black from the Department of English became her partner for nearly forty years.

Judi was one of a cohort of students who in the late 1950s and early 1960s started to take New Zealand history seriously. Her MA thesis, on the missionary Thomas Kendall, was published in 1968 as The Legacy of Guilt. This book was recognised as ground-breaking work in what was then described as culture contact history. The prose was limpid, the analysis brilliant and the footnotes lengthy. Kendall was a missionary who desperately tried to understand Maori religion and in the process had his own religious beliefs sorely tested – Judi tried to understand Kendall, and ‘systems of explanation’ or finding meaning in events became an abiding theme of her work. Both Kendall and Judi were boundary crossers. The Legacy of Guilt was awarded the F.P. Wilson Prize for historical writing in New Zealand.

When Judi was appointed to the staff of the Department of History she joined a stellar group of people – most of them graduates of the Department but with significant international experience – Keith Sinclair, Keith Sorrenson, Russell Stone, Michael and Judith Basset, Jim Holt, and Mike Stenson. Bob Chapman had recently left to start up the Department of Political Studies. They had a sense of mission, were highly politicised, focussed on research and very active in the University and the community.

In the 1970s Judi was involved in a debate among historians about the motivation of Maori to convert to Christianity. Although it has since been said that this was a ‘false problem’, it was at the time a very real dispute and provided the topic for countless student essays and examination questions. It was the sort of controversy that historians love, involving causation, motivation, God and Mammon. Judi was involved in many other debates over the years, perhaps the most important of which concerned who could write what history. Her view was that this debate could never rest on the grounds of religion, race or gender. Instead she said that the debate ‘must be about the ability to understand the issues and the strength of the ideas developed in the writing.’ Understanding the issues and developing ideas from the historical evidence marked all her own writing.

In 1979, along with Gillian Chaplin and Craig Wallace, Judi published Mihaia, a study of the prophet Rua Kenana and his community at Mangapohatu. This book was followed by two others which were described as a trilogy – Nga Morehu, published in 1986, the stories of eight Tuhoe women which were told to Judi and Gillian, and Redemption Songs, a life of Te Kooti, published in 1995. Nga Morehu was a prize winner in the Wattie Book Awards for 1987 and Redemption Songs won the Montana Book Supreme Award in 1996. There had been other books along the way – an edition of William Yates’ Account of New Zealand, The People and the Land – an illustrated history with Judith Bassett and Erik Olssen - and many other essays and journal articles. This body of work won Judi the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Non-fiction in 2006.

What Judi recognised in a way no other New Zealand historian has done was the power of the oral world, and the ability of photographs to unlock that world. One of her articles entitled ‘Maori Oral Narratives, Pakeha Written Texts: Two Forms of Telling History’ explored the form and purpose of oral history to Maori and reflected on the responsibility of any historian incorporating oral history into written history. Her role was to prompt the flow of words, to listen, to record and retell the story in a way that was true to the people to whom it belonged and who had transmitted it. The story might stand alone or it might become a part of a bigger story interpreted, shaped and retold by the historian working in a written tradition.

In 2009 the Urewera trilogy became a quartet with the publication of Encircled Lands – a history of Tuhoe from 1820 to 1921, begun in research undertaken for claims before the Waitangi Tribunal. Encircled Lands is a narrative of a struggle for survival in face of a loss of autonomy and broken promises based on detailed archival research, oral history and case studies. This much acclaimed work, which won the New Zealand Post Supreme Book Award in 2010, demonstrates the depth of knowledge and understanding of Tuhoe history that Judi acquired over many years and the trust she had built up among Tuhoe. Her feeling of responsibility was discharged by returning her books to the people – they were her gifts back in return for the stories that had been given into her care. For these acts she was given a Maori name by Tuhoe - Te Tomairangi o Te Aroha.

Judi’s work has been recognised by many honours. In addition to the prizes and awards for her writing, she was the second J.D. Stout Research Fellow at Victoria University in 1985, worked full time in 1991 on Redemption Songs on a Foundation for Research, Science and Technology grant and held a James Cook Research Fellowship from 2000 to 2003. She became one of two historians made Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1998 and an inaugural Fellow of the New Zealand Academy of the Humanities in 2007. In 2009, the Polynesian Society presented her with the Elsdon Best Medal. In 1997 she was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in 2006 a Distinguished Companion.

Judi served on the Committee of the Auckland University Press but she was not a University committee person. However by 1990 her books and her advisory roles in various projects had made her the major oral historian in New Zealand. When the Australian Government presented the New Zealand Government with a gift of $1m for an oral history trust at the 1990 sesquicentennial, she was appointed to chair the Trust and did so until 2003. This inaugurated a number of appointments to bodies in Wellington – the Research Advisory Committee of the Crown Forestry Rental Trust in 1995, the Humanities Panel of the Marsden Fund in 1997, the Board of Te Papa in 1999, a Kaitiaki of the Alexander Turnbull Library in 2003, the Board of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 2007, Creative New Zealand in 2009. She also acted frequently as an historical consultant on such projects as the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, numerous television documentaries and the Waitangi Tribunal.

Judi’s teaching was not flamboyant, she did not seek disciples. What impressed her students was her knowledge, her understanding of complex situations and systems, her mastery of detail, her commitment and her intensity. She had been a long-serving editor of The New Zealand Journal of History and when she retired the Journal brought out a collection of her essays. In this a young scholar, Damon Salesa, who had been taught and profoundly influenced by Judi, reflected on her teaching and writing. What he recalled most powerfully was Judi’s intensity, her ‘dashing’ presence – jewellery, especially spectacular earrings, was a regular part of Judi’s wardrobe -- and the stories she told.

Judi was, above all, a story teller. She could hold conference audiences spell bound by the power of her stories and the way she told them. Her last book – Stories without End published in 2010 – collected together her essays. In the last paragraph of her introduction she commented on the way stories, especially stories that are transmitted orally, change according to the context in which they are told. She saw her stories as pinned in time and wrote ‘when my pen is silent they will continue to change in the oral world.’ That pen is now silent but it has produced an enduring legacy.


Professor Raewyn Dalziel ONZM
Department of History
University of Auckland, New Zealand



Binney, Judith 1967: The Heritage of Isaiah: Thomas Kendall and Maori Religion, New Zealand Journal of History I (2):124–147.

Binney, Judith 1968, 2005: The Legacy of Guilt: A Life of Thomas Kendall, Auckland, Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, pp.xvi, 220. Second edition, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, pp.264.

Binney, Judith 1969: Christianity and the Maoris to 1840: A Comment, New Zealand Journal of History III (2): 143–165.

Binney, Judith 1970: Introduction, An Account of New Zealand (1835), William Yate, facsimile edition, Shannon, Irish University Press/A.H. Reed, 1970, pp.xxi, 310.

Binney, Judith 1971a:Maori Reactions to the Advent of the Europeans - The Early Years, New Zealand’s Heritage I (7): 174–179.

Binney, Judith. 1971b, 1974: The Zealous Man of God [Samuel Marsden], New Zealand’s Heritage I (9): 231–235; reprinted in Famous New Zealanders, Paul Hamlyn.

Binney, Judith 1971c:The Expansion of the Missions, New Zealand’s Heritage I (11): 281–285.

Binney, Judith 1971d: Correspondence on Reverend William Yate, Landfall 100: 473–474.

Binney, Judith 1975:Whatever Happened to Poor Mr Yate? An Exercise in Voyeurism, New Zealand Journal of History IX (2): 111–125.

Binney, Judith 1976: Review Article: Prophets in the Wilderness: The Wesleyan Mission to New Zealand 1819–1827, J.M.R. Owens, New Zealand Journal of History X (1): 75–79.

Binney, Judith, Chaplin, Gillian; Wallace, Craig 1979, 1987, 1990, 1996, 2005: Mihaia. The Prophet Rua Kenana, and his Community at Maungapohatu, Auckland, Oxford University Press, pp.208.

Binney, Judith 1980a: The Lost Drawing of Nukutawhiti, New Zealand Journal of History XIV (1): 3–24.

Binney, Judith 1980b: Nukutawhiti: Thomas Kendall’s Drawing, Turnbull Library Record XIII (7): 33–38.

Binney, Judith 1983: Maungapohatu Revisited: Or, How the Government Underdeveloped a Maori Community, Journal of the Polynesian Society XCII (3): 353–392.

Binney, Judith 1984:Myth and Explanation in the Ringatu Tradition. Some aspects of the leadership of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki and Rua Kenana Hepetipa, Journal of the Polynesian Society XCIII (4): 345–398.

Binney, Judith 1986a: At Every Bend a Taniwha: Thomas Kendall and Maori Carving, New Zealand Journal of History XX (2): 132–146.

Binney, Judith; Chaplin, Gillian 1986b, 1987, 1990, 1996, 2004: Ngā Mōrehu: The Survivors, Auckland, Oxford University Press, pp.218.

Binney, Judith; Sorrenson, Keith eds 1987a: Essays in Honour of Sir Keith Sinclair, special edition New Zealand Journal of History, University of Auckland, pp.193.

Binney, Judith 1987b, 2001: Maori Oral Narratives, Pakeha Written Texts: Two Forms of Telling History, New Zealand Journal of History XXI (1): 16–28. Republished in: Judith Binney ed., The Shaping of History: Essays from The New Zealand Journal of History, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, 2–14, 372–373.

Binney, Judith 1987c: Tuki’s Universe, Pp. 12-33 in: Keith Sinclair ed., Tasman Relations, Auckland, Auckland University Press.

Binney, Judith 1988: The Ringatu Traditions of Predictive History, Journal of Pacific History XXIII (2): 167–174.

Binney, Judith 1989a, 1992: Some Observations on the Status of Maori Women, New Zealand Journal of History XXII (1): 22–31. Republished in B. Brookeset al. (eds), Women in History 2, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, 12–24.

Binney, Judith 1989b:The Maori and the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi,. Pp. 20–31 in: Towards 1990: Seven Leading Historians Examine Significant Aspects of New Zealand History, Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs.

Binney, Judith; Bassett, Judith; Olssen, Erik. 1990a, 1993: The People and the Land: Te Tangata me Te Whenua. An Illustrated History of New Zealand 1820–1920,Wellington, Allen and Unwin, pp.352.

Binney, Judith 1990b: ‘Reginald Biggs’; ‘Thomas Kendall’; ‘Penetana Papahurihia’; ‘Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki’; ‘William Yate’, Pp. 29–30; 224–225; 329–331; 462–466; 611–612 in: The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol. One, 1769–1869, Wellington, Allen and Unwin/Department of Internal Affairs.

‘Penetana Papahurihia’; ‘Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki’, republished in The People of Many Peaks, 1769–1869, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, 1991, 87–91; 194–201.

Binney, Judith 1990c, 1993, 1996, 2001: Ancestral Voices: Maori Prophet Leaders. Pp. 153–184 in: Keith Sinclair ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand, Auckland, Oxford University Press.

Binney, Judith 1991a:‘Ani Kaaro, Maria Pangari, Remana Hane’; ‘Jane Kendall’; ‘Irene Paulger’; ‘Pinepine Te Rika’; ‘Te Akakura Ru’, Pp. 334–337; 346–348; 502–504; 519–521; 660–663in C. Macdonald et al. (eds), The Book of New Zealand Women, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books.

‘Ani Kaaro, Maria Pangari, Remana Hane’ republished in Sheryll Ofner (ed.), NZ Women in the Nineteenth Century,Auckland, Macmillan, 1993, 19–22.

Binney, Judith; Chaplin, Gillian 1991b, 2003: Taking the Photographs Home: The Recovery of a Maori History, Visual Anthropology, IV, 431–442. Republished in Laura Peers ed., Collaborative Research: Museums and Source Communities, London, Routledge Kegan Paul, 100–110.

Binney, Judith 1992, 1994: Two Maori Portraits: Adoption of the Medium. Pp. 242–246. in:Edwards, E. ed.,Anthropology and Photography 1860–1920, New Haven, Yale University Press.

Binney, Judith 1993a, 1994: Ani Kaaro’; ‘Aperahama Taonui’. Pp. 248–249; 500–502 in: The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol. Two 1870–1900, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books/Department of Internal Affairs,. Republished in The Turbulent Years 1870–1900, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, 32–33; 128–131.

Binney, Judith 1993b:William Yate. Pp. 1222–1223 in: Donald Lewis ed., The Blackwell Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1730–1860, Oxford, Basil Blackwell.

Binney, Judith. 1995, 1996, 1997: Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Auckland, Auckland University Press/Bridget Williams Books, pp.666. International editions: Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1997; Melbourne, University of Melbourne Press, 1997.

Binney, Judith 1996a: ‘Rua Kenana Hepetipa’; ‘Eria Raukura’. Pp. 418–419, 444–447 in: The Dictionary of NZ Biography, Vol. Three 1901–1920, Auckland, Auckland University Press.

Binney, Judith 1996b:The Making of a Biography of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuk., Journal of Pacific Studies 20: 113–122.

Binney, Judith; Montgomerie, Deborah eds 1997: Koha: Essays in Honour of M.P.K Sorrenson, special edition New Zealand Journal of History, University of Auckland, pp.194.

Binney, Judith, McKinnon, Malcolm 1997b:Te Whai-a-Te-Motu: Te Kooti and his Adversaries, 1868–1872, plate 40 in M. McKinnon ed., New Zealand Historical Atlas,Wellington, n.pp.

Binney, Judith. 1997c:Te Mana Tuatoru: The Rohe Potae of Tuhoe. New Zealand Journal of History XXXI (1): 117–131.

Binney, Judith 1997d: The Stories of the Exiles. New Zealand Studies VII (3): 22–26.

Binney, Judith1998: Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. Pp. 529–530 in: Roger Robinson; Wattie, Nelson eds, The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

Binney, Judith 1999: Songlines from Aotearoa. Pp. 218–237, 265–268 in: H. Ericksen, K. Neumann, N. Thomas (eds), Quicksands: Foundational Histories in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, Sydney, University of New South Wales.

Binney, Judith ed. 2000: Millennium Issue, special edition New Zealand Journal of History, University of Auckland, pp.195.

Binney, Judith 2000-2001: Oral History Awards: Ten Years On. Oral History in New Zealand XII-XIII: 3–4.

Binney, Judith ed. 2001a: The Shaping of History: Essays from The New Zealand Journal of History, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, pp.422.

Binney, Judith 2001b:Te Umutaoroa: The Earth Oven of Long Cooking. Pp. 147–164, 237–239 in: Andrew Sharp and Paul McHugh eds., Histories, Power and Loss, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books.

Binney, Judith. 2001c: Encounters Across Time: The Makings of an Unanticipated Trilogy, in Bain Attwood and Fiona Magowan eds, Telling Stories: Indigenous History and Memory in Australia and New Zealand, Wellington and Sydney, Bridget Williams Books/Allen and Unwin, 80–98, 229–230.

Binney, Judith. 2002: Whakatane & District Historical Society 50th Anniversary. [Whakatane] Historical Review L (2): 59–63.

Binney, Judith. 2003a:Conversations with Kendrick, Smithymania: Brief #26: 87–91.

Binney, Judith. 2003b:Tom Ryan’s Sketches of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. Turnbull Library Record 36: 35–45.

Binney, Judith; Monro, Doug. 2003c: Walking Unexpected Paths: Interview with Judith Binney. History Now/Te Pae Tawhito o Te Wā, 9 (2): 1–3.

Binney, Judith. 2004a: Bringing the Stories Back Home. Pp. 25–38 in: Green, Anna; Hutching, Megan eds, Remembering: Writing Oral History, Auckland University Press.

Binney, Judith; Musgrove, Marjorie. 2004b: Rex Around the Corner. Pp. 265–270 in: Holman, Dinah; Cole Catley, Christine eds, Fairburn and Friends, Auckland, Cape Catley.

Binney, Judith. 2004c: Selected Essays, Korero in Honour of Judith Binney. New Zealand Journal of History 38 (2): 127–271.

Binney, Judith. 2004d.Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 54, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Binney, Judith. 2006: In-Between” Lives: Studies from Within a Colonial Society. Pp. 93–117, 250–254 in: Tony Ballantyne, Tony; Moloughney, Brian eds, Disputed Histories: Imagining New Zealand’s Pasts, Dunedin, Otago University Press.

Binney, Judith. 2007a:Papahurihia, Pukerenga, Te Atua Wera and Te Nākahi: How Many Prophets? Journal of the Polynesian Society 116 (3): 309–320.

Binney, Judith. 2007b: Searching for Kikowakarere. New Zealand Heritage: 18–19.

Binney, Judith ed. 2007c: Te Kerikeri, 1770–1850: The Meeting Pool, Wellington, Bridget William Books/Craig Potton Publishing, pp.136.

Binney, Judith. 2007d: When the White Kawau Flies. Pp. 140–59, 201–04in: Sutton Lutz, John ed., Myth and Memory: Stories of Indigenous-European Contact, Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press.

Binney, Judith. 2008: Untold Lives: When the Elders Tell their Stories, Hocken Lecture, Dunedin, University of Otago, pp.21.

Binney, Judith. 2009a: Encircled Lands: Te Urewera, 1820-1921, Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, pp. x, 670.

Binney, Judith. 2009b: History and Memory: The Wood of the Whau Tree, 1766–2005. Pp. 73–98, 614–19 in: Giselle Byrnes ed., The New Oxford History of New Zealand, Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

Binney, Judith. 2009c: Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, c.1832–17 April 1893. In: Paul Millar ed., Kōtare 2008, Special Issue — Essays in New Zealand Literary Biography Series Two: Early Male Prose Writers’, New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Wellington, Victoria University, 9pp.

Binney, Judith. 2009d: Te Ūpokokohua: the Curse of Confiscation on Te Urewera. In: Boast, Richard; Hill, Richard eds, Raupatu: the Confiscation of Māori Land, Wellington,Victoria University Press.

Binney, Judith. 2010: Stories without End: Essays 1975-2010,Wellington, Bridget Williams Books, pp. 424.