Scoop Review of Books

Archive for April, 2016

Golden Days

Rushing for Gold: Life and Commerce on the Goldfields of New Zealand and Australia
Edited by Lloyd Carpenter and Lyndon Fraser (Otago University Press, $45)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan

RushingForGold--001This work arose from a conference held in 2012 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Otago gold rushes. The conference was hosted, not as you might expect by the University of Otago, but jointly by the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University where the book’s editors are on the staff. The 20 diverse contributors include seven Australians.

The subheading of this book is somewhat misleading. It is in fact almost entirely confined to the Otago rushes and their links with the rushes in Victoria. The result is a work that provides new insights into the Otago rushes – for example the extent of the two-way traffic between Otago and Victoria, and the cultural diversity of the goldfields, making Central Otago the least Scottish part of Otago-Southland.

The first section focuses particularly on the Victorian connections – commercial, legal, mining and personal, including migration statistics. But for me the most interesting chapters were in the middle sections about the people of the goldfields. Lloyd Carpenter’s chapter on Māori showed that they were aware of gold in various places before its discovery by Pākehā; there were also Māori miners in Australia, California and the Yukon.

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Shaking More Than the Earth

Christchurch Ruptures
by Katie Pickles (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Judith Morrell Nathan

BWB7760_Text_Cover_Christchurch Ruptures_High ResProfessor Pickles, head of history at Canterbury University, has written about the earthquakes from a new angle, arguing they have “fractured pathways to remembering the past”. Her approach to history is thematic and sociological, not chronological. The book looks at Christchurch’s history and the impact of the earthquakes through five themes: landscape, people, heritage, culture and politics. “The earthquakes have exposed major components in the history of Christchurch such as the dominant Anglican tradition and Englishness, the denial of a Maori past, and the environmental pitfalls of building on a swamp.”

The disruption to the landscape is all too obvious, with many buildings demolished by the earthquake and subsequently in the recovery phase. The break from the colonial past is symbolised in the destruction of statues of Canterbury’s founders. Pickles argues that traditions need to be looked at afresh and not just clung to or restored. While the earthquakes have brought the city’s colonial past back into focus, many heritage buildings had been knocked down before the earthquakes.

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