Home in the Howling Wilderness wins Ian Wards Prize

02 October 2014
Cover of Home in the Howling Wilderness

Congratulations to Professor Peter Holland who has won the 2014 Archives and Records Association of New Zealand (ARANZ) Ian Wards Prize for his major new account of Pākehā and the land in New Zealand. Home in the Howling Wilderness: settlers and the environment in southern New Zealand undertakes a deep history of nineteenth century European settlement to answer key questions about New Zealand’s ecological transformation.

The Ian Wards Prize is New Zealand’s most prestigious history prize, awarded annually to an outstanding piece of writing which clearly demonstrates exemplary and/or innovative use of primary resources. First awarded in 2001, the prize honours the contribution to New Zealand scholarship of Ian McLean Wards, Chief Government Historian between 1968 and 1983.

Peter Holland is Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Otago.  He has written numerous journal articles and book chapters on grasslands history. In 2008, Professor Holland won New Zealand’s highest award for a geographer, the Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Gold Medal, from the New Zealand Geographical Society. Peter responded to the news “I was greatly moved to learn that I had been awarded the Ian Wards Prize for Home in the Howling Wilderness and my mind turned to the subjects of that book, the frequently misunderstood European pioneers of Canterbury and Otago. After I had figured out what their written words meant, the diaries, memos, letters and financial records of two generations of European settlers became the eyes and ears with the help of which I learned more about the area where I grew up. And as our acquaintance grew I found myself engaged in conversation with several settlers whose diaries and letters were unusually full of wry anecdote, sharp observation and interesting commentary. My book is their story, largely told in their own words, and I feel honoured that they permitted me to tell it.”   

The judges commented that selection of the prize winner is always a challenge, as so many books are published each year which make extensive use of archives from many different archival collections.

Auckland University Press Director Sam Elworthy commented: “Peter Holland has got deeper inside the reality of rural life in New Zealand than any historian before him—a world of rabbits and gorse, droughts and floods, of Pakeha struggling to make a Home in the Howling Wilderness. The Ian Wards Prize is richly deserved.”