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.



Photo by Mark Beatty