Judith Binney was an academic and non-fiction writer whose books focused on New Zealand history, particularly Maori individuals and communities. Binney drew on oral histories and communal memories, and her books were often enriched by photographs. Binney's biography of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Redemption Songs, was the 1996 Montana New Zealand Book of the Year. In addition to several other significant awards, she was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to historical research in 2006.
Binney, Judith (1940 - 2011) was an academic and the author of numerous books on New Zealand history, many with a focus on Maori individuals and communities. Her writing crossed the boundaries of "colonialist history", partly by drawing on oral histories and communal memories, and by using photographic sources as an integral part of written historical discourse.
Binney was born in Australia and educated at Auckland University, where she was a professor of history. Her publications include The Legacy of Guilt, A Life of Thomas Kendall (1968), which won the F.P. Wilson Award for best historical writing; Mihaia: The Prophet Rua Kenana and his community of Maungapohatu (with G. Chaplin and C. Wallace) (1979; 1987; 2005); Nga Morehu: The Survivors (with G. Chaplin) (1986; 1987; 2004) which won third prize in the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards; and The People and the Land 1820 - 1920 (with J. Bassett and E. Olssen) (1990).
Her biography of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Redemption Songs, received the Cultural Heritage Book of the Year Award at the 1996 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Binney was also a contributor to books including The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand, The Turbulent Years 1870 - 1900, and The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.
In 1997, she was awarded the CNZM for services to historical research, and in 1998 was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in New Zealand.
The Legacy of Guilt: A Life of Thomas Kendall was re-issued by Bridget Williams Books in 2005. This edition has been updated with a new introduction, illustrations and critical insights that provide a contemporary perspective on the life of this controversial missionary.
In 2006 Binney was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to historical research. She was also awarded $60,000 for non fiction at the 2006 Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement. Prime Minister Helen Clark said, 'Judith Binney’s work plays a vital role in recording our history, with a focus on Maori communities. Her writing draws on oral histories and communal memories, and uses photographic sources as an integral part of the written historical discourse.' The annual Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement recognise writers who have made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature.
Te Kerikeri: The Meeting Pool (Craig Potton/Bridget Williams Books 2007) was edited by Binney, with contributions from Claudia Orange, Patu Hohepa, and Manuka Henare, among others. It tells the story of the beginnings of European settlement in New Zealand, leading the reader through significant events in Maori and Pakeha history at a time of radical change.
In 2007, she was named an inaugural fellow of the New Zealand Academy of Humanities, and she was a historical consultant for Vincent Ward's film, Rain of Children, released in 2008.
In 2010 she won the New Zealand Post Book of the Year and General Non-fiction Award for Encircled Lands: Te Urewera, 1820-1921 (Bridget Williams Books). The book documents Tūhoe’s quest for self-government of their lands, granted to them in law more than a century ago.
Judith Binney was Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Auckland. She died at her home in Auckland in February 2011.