Judith Binney, DCNZM, FRSNZ, FNZAH, was born in Australia in 1940 and educated at Auckland University, where she became Emeritus Professor of History. She was the author of numerous books of New Zealand history, many with a focus on Māori individuals and communities.
She died at her home in Auckland in 2011.
The Legacy of Guilt: A Life of Thomas Kendall (1968; BWB, 2005), won the F.P. Wilson Award for best historical writing. This biography of an early Anglican missionary was re-issued in 2005 with a new introduction, illustrations and critical insights that provide a contemporary perspective on the life of this controversial man. Other titles include the co-authored book, Mihaia: The Prophet Rua Kenana and His Community at Maungapohatu (1979, 2011) – a study of the life of the Tūhoe visionary, Rua Kenana. Nga Morehu: The Survivors (1986, 2011), co-authored with Gillian Chaplin, won third prize in the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book of the Year Awards. The life stories of eight Māori women are narrated in the context of the evolution of the Ringatū faith. The co-authored work, The People and the Land 1820–1920, was published in 1990.
Binney's life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Redemption Songs (1995), won the 1996 Montana New Zealand Book of the Year. It recounts the life of the brilliant military leader and founder of the Ringatū faith, Te Kooti. The Shaping of History (BWB, 2001) is a selection of influential essays that 'debated existing ideas and received traditions' from the New Zealand Journal of History. Binney was co-editor and editor of the Journal from 1987 to 2001. She edited Te Kerikeri 1770–1850: The Meeting Pool (BWB, 2007), which is an account of Māori and Pākehā in a particular place at a time of radical change. Key historical figures emerge: Hongi Hika, Hone Heke, Samuel Marsden, Thomas Kendall, Marianne Williams, and George Grey.
Encircled Lands: Te Urewera 1820–1921 (BWB, 2009) documents the history of the Urewera over a period of traumatic change for Tūhoe and other Urewera hapū. Arising from a major report written for the Waitangi Tribunal, the book’s account is central to current negotiations between Tūhoe and the Crown, over settlements under the Treaty of Waitangi. As Alan Ward writes, this is one of New Zealand’s exceptional histories, unlikely to be equalled in the present generation.
Judith Binney was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1998. She was awarded a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to historical research in New Zealand in 1997, and made a Distinguished Companion in 2006. She received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement the same year. She was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Academy of the Humanities in 2007.