Born in Feilding, W.H. Oliver graduated from Victoria University in 1951 and Oxford University in 1953. He lectured at Canterbury and Victoria (1954–63) and was Emeritus Professor of History at Massey University.
Bill Oliver helped lay the foundations for current historical writing about this country with The Story of New Zealand published in 1960. His contribution to New Zealand history continued with The Oxford History of New Zealand (1981), co-edited with Bridget Williams. He was a consulting editor for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, for which he was the General Editor from 1983 to 1990.
Oliver helped to start, and edited for many years, the periodical Comment, which focused on social and political issues; and he wrote frequently for Landfall. He wrote Claims to the Waitangi Tribunal (Department of Justice, 1991), and has made submissions to the Tribunal on behalf of the Muriwhenua and Hauraki claimants. His publications include a biography of James K. Baxter and several volumes of poetry. Most recently, Bill Oliver published an autobiography Looking for the Phoenix (BWB, 2002) and Poems 1946–2005 (VUP, 2005).
Selected Poems (Victoria University Press, 2005)
Looking for the Phoenix: A Memoir (Bridget Williams Books, 2002)
The Social and Economic Situation of Hauraki Māori After Colonisation (Hauraki Māori Trust Board, 1997)
James K. Baxter: A Portrait (Port Nicholson Press, 1983)
Poor Richard (Port Nicholson Press, 1982)
The Oxford History of New Zealand, co-edited with Bridget Williams (Oxford University Press, 1981)
Out of Season (Oxford University Press, 1980)
Prophets and Millennialists (Auckland University Press, 1978)
The Story of New Zealand (Faber, 1960)
Fire Without Phoenix (Caxton Press, 1957)