Atholl Anderson receives Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement

Atholl Anderson receives Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement

One of New Zealand’s most distinguished scholars, Emeritus Professor Atholl Anderson (Ngāi Tahu), has been honoured with this year’s Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in the Non-Fiction category.

A lifetime of research and writing about the distant past of Māori and Pacific peoples is acknowledged in this significant award.

Aroha Harris, President of the New Zealand Historical Association, worked with Professor Anderson on his most recent publication Tangata Whenua:  An Illustrated History; she has acknowledged him as ‘an outstanding archaeologist of international renown, and unsurpassed in his contributions to archaeological understandings of New Zealand’s past’.

Professor Tom Higham of Oxford Universitysays: ‘I can think of few other New Zealanders who I would rate more highly on an international scale... His output is prodigious, widely recognised and respected’.

Tā Tipene O’Regan writes: ‘New Zealand scholarship is immeasurably richer for Atholl Anderson’s contribution over the last several decades.  … [He] has brought his distinguished research in archaeology and early New Zealand history to bear on some of the most critical questions that we consider about Te Ao Māori.’

Melissa Matutina Williams, author of the award-winning Panguru and the City, has commented on the way ‘he has built a bridge between archaeology and Māori history, bringing our people’s origins home to a history of intertwined tribal and shared Māori narratives’. 

Professor Anderson’s scholarship has contributed greatly to our understanding of the ancient past in these South Pacific Islands – and particularly to the early history of Ngāi Tahu and southern New Zealand, through books such as The Welcome of Strangers, and through his work on the Ngāi Tahu claim in the late twentieth century.  In 1993, he moved from a professorship at the University of Otago to one at the Australian National University; returning to New Zealand in 2005, Atholl Anderson committed several years to the big collaborative project Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, co-authored with Aroha Harris and Judith Binney.  This ground-breaking history, published in 2014, has won several prestigious awards confirming its remarkable contribution to knowledge of the Māori world.

Publisher Bridget Williams speaks of the warmth that has greeted news of this award: ‘So many people have acknowledged Atholl’s leadership in the fields he works in.  He is a scholar whose work takes us into different worlds – bringing the past into the present, connecting archaeology with Māori tradition, making links between science and history, introducing readers to the richness of the distant past.  Aroha Harris spoke for many of us when she wrote recently: “he is as generous as he is distinguished”. I feel privileged to have worked with him on the Tangata Whenua project, and am truly delighted that his lifetime’s work has been recognised by the Prime Minister’s Award.  At BWB, we all offer Atholl heartfelt congratulations on this wonderful occasion.’