Kāi Tahu historian wins prestigious award

angela wanhalla1 Kāi Tahu historian, Dr Angela Wanhalla, above, has won the 2014 Ernest Scott Prize for history. The Ernest Scott prize, worth approximately $13,000, is given annually to the book judged to be the most distinguished contribution to the history of Australia or New Zealand or to the history of colonisation.

Dr Wanhalla looked at interracial unions stretching back to first Māori contact with Pākehā in her research which culminated in her book  Matters of the Heart: A History of Interracial Marriage in New Zealand published by Auckland University Press, and discovered that most interracial unions between Māori and Pākehā survived and thrived despite attempts to politicise or criticise them.

“Most of these unions were monogamous relationships based on principles of respect, intimacy and love, and they were, for the most part, enduring.”

Matters of the Heart covers the growth of interracial marriages, encompassing common law marriages and Māori customary marriages alongside formal arrangements recognised by church and state. It also runs the gamut of official reactions – from condemnation of interracial immorality or racial treason to a celebration of New Zealand’s unique intermarriage patterns as a sign of us being “one people”.

Dr Wanhalla is a senior lecturer in the Department of History and Art History at the University of Otago. She specialises in the histories of gender, race and colonialism in the nineteenth century, the indigenous history of the North American West, and the history of intimacy, particularly interracial relationships and hybridity.