An archivist by day and author by night, Jared Davidson is a writer and historian based in Wellington, New Zealand. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Overland, History Workshop Journal, Radical Futures, The Spinoff and other publications. Dead Letters won the Bert Roth Award for Labour History, was shortlisted for the W.H. Oliver Prize for best book on any aspect of New Zealand history and longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Award for General Non-Fiction. He is currently the Research Librarian Manuscripts at the Alexander Turnbull Library, as well as a judge for the 2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards (Booksellers NZ Award for Illustrated Nonfiction).
Jared’s latest book is about the unfree work of prisoners. Forced labour haunts the streets we walk and the spaces we take for granted, weaving its way through every major urban centre, across the pastured grasslands of heartland New Zealand and into Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific. Yet it is a story that is largely unknown. Combining social and environmental history with narrative nonfiction, Blood and Dirt: Prison Labour and the Making of New Zealand (forthcoming in 2023 with Bridget Williams Books) explores prison labour from the Church Missionary Society’s use of convicts in 1814 to the state prison farms of the 1920s, including New Zealand’s Pacific.
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Photo by Mark Beatty
So much of New Zealand’s historiography is plagued by a sociological approach to class. This approach is based on stratification and the need to confine people into categories: hence the focus on occupation, hierarchy, status, income differentials, social role, class location or class consciousness. Who is working class? Where does the middle class start and stop? Who were the gentry? Was there a gentry? My latest article for Overland Literary Journal looks at class as a relationship and a process, and suggests such an understanding has the potential to unearth or reappraise key events and narratives in our colonial pasts.
Published by Bridget Williams Books, 2021
Published by Otago University Press, 2019
Published by AK Press, 2013
Published by Rebel Press, 2011