Prof. Joel Hayward's Old Website

Joel Hayward, ZDaF, BA, MA Hons, PhD, FRSA, FRHistS

Michael Bassett's thoughts on the "book burning"

Distinguished historian Michael Bassett writes:


"As a New Zealand historian and a subscriber to History Today, the magazine that purged the article about Joel Hayward, I can say that the historical community in New Zealand is divided. Several daily papers, including the New Zealand Herald, ran the suppressed article in full, and I had difficulty seeing anything in it that warranted academic suppression. Most of my friends feel the same way. Maybe it's just that most of them, to a greater or lesser extent, have contempt for creeping political correctness and its encroachment on full, vigorous debate where people are allowed to call spades spades.


"My history teacher at the University of Auckland in the 1950s was an old "fellow traveler" who seemed first to follow the Russian, then the Chinese Communist line. His name was Willis Airey. He'd been a Rhodes Scholar after World War One and a good athlete in his time. He never belonged to any communist party but often sounded as though he did. He had a tough life at the hands of political opponents who disliked his pronouncements as president of the New Zealand Peace Council, and he was often attacked in Parliament during the McCarthy years (we weren't immune from that down here) for his views. People stopped him from becoming a full professor, and in his retirement he was not officially able to call himself Professor Airey (although most of his students did so). But despite this, throughout his life he vehemently defended the rights of his critics to have their say. This left a lasting impression on me, and I instinctively recoil from academic (or most other kinds of) censorship.


"Frankly, I think the majority of the historians at Canterbury University have done themselves a disservice by trying to suppress the article about Hayward. At the very least they guaranteed it greater publicity! But censors, in my experience, are usually slow learners".






About Michael Bassett:


"Michael Bassett has had a rich and varied career, both in politics and history. After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Auckland, he finished a PhD at Duke University. Returning to New Zealand in the mid-1960s he combined an academic career with political office. His achievements in both history and politics have been considerable. Elected to Parliament in the 1970s as M.P. for Te Atatu, he was a prominent member of the Labour Government of 1984-1990, becoming Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Health. Both before, during and after political service he wrote history. He has written books on the 1951 Waterfront Strike, the Third Labour Government, and the Department of Internal Affairs and political biographies of Sir Joseph Ward and Gordon Coates. His most recent book is The State in New Zealand 1840-199 (Auckland University Press)."