History research interests

Browse the research interests of staff in the History programme.

For detailed research areas and lists of publications please see the profiles of individual staff.


Wellington has the best research archives and resources in the country for New Zealand history as well as good early modern material. Not surprisingly, Victoria's past leading History scholars have worked in these areas. They include Australian and New Zealand historian Fred L Wood, New Zealand and James Cook scholar JC Beaglehole, and British and New Zealand historian David A Hamer. In addition New Zealand historians James Belich and Richard Hill from the Stout Research Centre are associated with the School through supervision of postgraduate students and teaching a History Honours course.

Currently our research focuses on the modern period, covering a wide geographical region:

  • Early Modern and Modern European History
  • American History
  • New Zealand, Pacific and Australian History
  • Asian History (principally China and India)
  • the Atlantic World.

Research strengths of the programme

Research strengths of the Programme include:

  • representations and presentation of History, especially cinematic representations, historiography, fiction, biography and autobiography
  • Comparative History, an excellent example of which is New Zealand, for putting into the wider international context
  • Social History, especially relations of gender, class, caste, race and slavery, the history of sport and crime.

Current research projects

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay: 'Dalits in the history of Partition in Eastern India'

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, Professor in the History Programme, received a Marsden Grant (2012-2014) to study Dalits, traditionally known as Untouchable, in the history of Partition in Eastern India.

Steve Behrendt: 'Liverpool's maritime history, 1700-1850'

Steve Behrendt, a Senior Lecturer in the History Programme, received a Marsden grant (2010-2012) to study Liverpool's history as a trading port, 1700-1850. The project will examine the rapid trade-led growth of Liverpool, the legacy of the slave trade to Liverpool, and assess economic and social links between maritime and industrial eras. Part of the project will be the creation of a public access online database, a sustainable resource for scholars and users interested in Liverpool, the slave trade, immigration, maritime history and early Lancashire industrialisation. The database will contain information on ships, voyages, mariners, merchants and cargoes, and the website also will include representative historical documents, interactive maps, and lesson plans.

Recent major publications

Jim McAloon's publication of Labour The New Zealand Labour Party 1916 to 2016Peter Franks and Jim McAloon, Labour: The New Zealand Labour Party 1816-2016 (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2016)

On 7 July 2016 the Labour Party, New Zealand's oldest political party, celebrated one hundred years of commitment to democracy, social justice and economic development. This book shows how Labour builds on a long tradition of radical and democratic agitation, and how members and activists from all walks of life fought for their economic and social visions. It shows how a party founded in a male-dominated trade union movement grew-sometimes with difficulty-to embrace and advocate for the aspirations of women, Māori, Pasifika peoples, and rainbow communities.

Religion and Modernity in IndiaSekhar Bandyopadhyay and Aloka Parasher Sen (eds), Religion and Modernity in India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016)

This book interrogates the supposed epistemological dualism between modernity and religion in India through a series of case studies taken from everyday experiences of people following a variety of religions.Through a study of oral and textual traditions, examining the perspectives of women and other marginal social and regional groups, as well as the diaspora, the book presents dynamically interacting textures of society - historically and in contemporary times - engaging with modernity in divergent ways.

Globalisation and the challenges of development in contemporary IndiaSita Venkateswar and Sekhar Bandyopadhyay (eds), Globalisation and the Challenges of Development in Contemporary India (Singapore, Springer, 2016)

This publication brings together multidisciplinary, situated and nuanced analyses of contingent issues framing a rapidly changing India in the 21st century. It moves beyond the ready dichotomies that are often extended to understand India as a series of contrasts and offers new insights into the complex realities of India today, thereby enabling us to anticipate the decades to come. It focuses on three major themes: defining the framework for interrogating globalisation and socio-economic changes in India over the last few decades of the 20th century and into the 21st century; highlighing criitcal considerations involved in feeding a burgeoning population; and the social challenges of contemporary India through the lens of inequalities and emergent activisms.

Cybele Locke book cover workers in the margins

Cybèle Locke, Workers in the Margins (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2012)

'Marginalised' workers of the late twentieth century were those last hired in times of plenty and first fired in times of recession. Workers in the Margins tells the story of these workers in the tumultuous years of post-war New Zealand. These were years characterised by massive changes in the workforce, as it expanded to accommodate a growing urban Māori population and an increasing desire for women to enter paid work.

Strong, Beautiful and Modern by Charlotte MacDonald

Charlotte Macdonald, Strong, Beautiful and Modern: National fitness in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada 1935-1960, (Auckland: Bridget Williams Books, 2011)

In this book Charlotte Macdonald explains the origins of that most modern preoccupation, the body obsession. And, at a time when govenment concern over public health issues such as obesity is once again on the rise, it offers valuable lessons as to why the first national fitness drive was ultimately a failure. This is an historical investigation into the way that people and their governments think about their health and well-being, and how these historical views have shaped our modern life.

Cover of The East-West Discourse: Symbolic geography and its consequences

Alexander Maxwell (ed), The East-West Discourse: Symbolic geography and its consequences (Oxford: Peter Lang,2010)

The terms 'east' and 'west' have become highly symbolic, yet also have a relative meaning, since every place is east of somewhere, and west of somewhere else. This book examines East-West rhetoric in several different historical contexts, seeking to problematise its implicit assumptions and analyse its consequences, particularly in parts of Europe where political actors conflate local geography with symbolic 'Easts' and 'Wests'.

Cover of India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay India in New Zealand: Local Identities, Global Relations (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2010)

Indian people in 'bi-cultural' New Zealand have long been an invisible minority, rarely mentioned in our history books. This book seeks to rectify this historical silence, tracing the history of Empire and migration which saw Indians travelling far from their homeland to settle in New Zealand in the late 19th century. It also looks at identity politics, minorities and society as well as foreign and trade relations.

Cover of The Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader

Steve BehrendtThe Diary of Antera Duke, an Eighteenth-Century African Slave Trader (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010)

The diary of Antera Duke is one of the earliest and most extensive surviving documents written by an African residing in coastal West Africa predating the arrival of British missionaries and officials in the mid-19th century. Antera Duke (ca.1735-ca.1809) was a leader and merchant in late eighteenth-century Old Calabar, a cluster of Efik-speaking communities in the Cross River region. He resided in Duke Town, forty miles from the Atlantic Ocean in modern-day southeast Nigeria. His diary, written in trade English from 18 January 1785 to 31 January 1788, is a candid account of daily life in an African community during a period of great historical interest.

Cover of Reciprocity between the Various Tribes and Dialects of the Slavic Nation

Alexander Maxwell (ed) Reciprocity between the Various Tribes and Dialects of the Slavic Nation (Bloomington, Indiana: Slavica Publishing 2009)

Jan Kollar, famed poet, romantic nationalist, and Lutheran pastor for the Slovak community in Budapest, took the Slavic world by storm in the early nineteenth century with his idea of Slavic Reciprocity. Kollar conceived of Russians, Poles, Czechs, and South Slavs as tribes of one great Slavic nation, destined for a glorious future if they would but unite. Kollar's ideals inspired poets, patriots, and politicians for over a century. Ironically, the (linguistic) reforms Kollar suggested for bringing about Slavic unity ultimately contributed to the fragmentation of the Slavic world.