Behind the downstairs reference desk at the Hocken are some shelves where each week’s newly acquired books are kept for staff to familiarise themselves with what is newly published. In the lead up to Anzac Day each year there are often books relating to New Zealand’s experience of war, and in particular the First and Second World Wars. The stand out book on the shelf last week was Glyn Harper’s latest, Letters from Gallipoli : New Zealand Soldiers Write Home. Professor Harper has collected together and edited the letters of many soldiers to tell the story of Gallipoli in a kind of collective first person account.
Letters from Gallipoli includes letters that are held at the Hocken Collections. We are grateful to many Otago soldier’s letters and diaries which have been generously donated by families. We would welcome further donations of soldier’s papers and photographs, not just relating to the First and Second World Wars but all wars that New Zealanders have experienced. These kinds of papers are the primary sources for books such as Professor Harper’s, and they are also regularly used by University of Otago students for their studies. Apart from post-grads researching and writing theses, Professor Tom Brooking’s HIST 105 paper focuses on the ANZAC’s and their legacy, students of this paper make intensive use of some of the soldier’s papers cared for at the Hocken.
|A selection of soldiers papers from the Hocken Collections|
War is almost certainly the most popular topic for historical research in New Zealand after family history. And so often family history is entertwined with war history. This keen interest is undoubtedly because of New Zealander’s close personal involvement in these wars. Almost every NZ family in the early to mid 20th century had at least one or more family member(s) in the armed forces and even if they didn’t their daily lives were greatly effected by what was happening.
The Hocken Collections is well resourced to meet this interest and has produced a series of subject guides to assist researchers. The guides are available in PDF form from the Guides page of our website. There are five guides covering the NZ Wars 1840s, NZ Wars 1860s-1870s, South African War, World War I and World War II.
Post prepared by Anna Blackman, Curator of Archives and Manuscripts