Talk: A history of the Manawatu River

ashhurst-libraryI will be doing a talk about my book Ravaged Beauty, with a focus on the Manawatu River, at the historic Ashhurst Community Library (seen here in its original form as a post office), on:

Thursday, 20th October at 7pm.

This will possibly be my last talk about my first book, which is fitting, because I lived in Ashhurst when I first conceived on the idea of doing a history of the Manawatu. I also have the last few books left, so it may peoples’ last opportunity to purchase one (at discount, of course).

Look forward to seeing some of you there. Download flyer for talk here.

Ravaged Beauty receives award

coverOn Wednesday night, I received an award from the Palmerston North Heritage Trust for my book Ravaged Beauty: an environmental history of the Manawatu.

From the Heritage Trust’s media release:

“Environmental historian Catherine Knight has won the Palmerston North Heritage Trust’s inaugural award for the best work of history relating to the Manawatu. Ravaged Beauty: An Environmental History of the Manawatu was described by co-judge Jill White as an outstanding winner from the 2013-14 publications considered. Continue reading

Scandinavian axemen, Maori gardening and forgotten streams of Christchurch

Young Maori girl at Te Ariki Pa. Shows her standing alongside a vegetable garden and a whare. Photograph taken in the 1880s by the Burton Brothers.
Young Maori girl at Te Ariki Pa, near Lake Tarawera, Bay of Plenty. Shows her standing alongside a vegetable garden and a whare. Photograph taken in the 1880s by the Burton Brothers. Alexander Turnbull Library ref. 1/2-004619-F.

In anticipation of my talk on Friday, I thought I would gain some insights into envirohistory NZ’s most popular posts. Fittingly, given that my talk is in the Manawatu, the most popular post (by far) has been The Scandinavian settlers of the Manawatu.

The next most popular posts have been Maori gardening in pre-European NZ and Earthquake reveals the forgotten streams of Christchurch.

Perhaps you might want to check them out.

Ravaged Beauty talk: Wellington National Library, 23 October

coverA few people have been inquiring whether I will be doing a talk in Wellington about Ravaged Beauty and the environmental history of the Manawatu. The answer is yes.

Other upcoming talks include the following:

  • Kapiti Forest & Bird: 7:30 pm 24 September (today!), Presbyterian Church Hall, Waikanae
  • Otaki Historical Society: 7:30pm 7 October, Otaki
  • National Library Author’s Voice Series: 12:10pm 23 October, National Library, Wellington
  • Mina McKenzie Memorial Lecture: 7 pm 5 November, Te Manawa, Palmerston North
  • Kapiti WEA course: 10am 8 November, Paraparaumu

Continue reading

New book: “Ravaged Beauty” – an environmental history

coverThe long-awaited Ravaged Beauty: an environmental history of the Manawatu is available June 2014
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Ravaged Beauty tells the story of one place, from prehistory to today. But its themes are universal. What motivates the human desire to modify and exploit their natural environment, and have people learned anything from the consequences? Read this new book to find out.
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Only a century and a half ago, the Manawatu was a heavily forested hinterland: the floodplains were a sea of swamps and lagoons, teeming with birdlife, eels and other fish; the hills and terraces were covered with thick impenetrable forest, refuge perhaps to a few lingering moa. Continue reading

Environmental history in NZ: seven reasons why it’s important

This image taken by Charles E. Wildbore circa 1907 shows the rural mail delivery that operated in the Pohangina Valley. The background of scorched, leafless tree trunks and limbs draws the eye of the environmental historian. Palmerston North City Library, ID 2007N_Poh2_RTL_0852
This image taken by Charles E. Wildbore circa 1907 shows the rural mail delivery that operated in the Pohangina Valley. It is the background of scorched, leafless tree trunks and limbs that draws the eye of the environmental historian, rather than the mail cart or people in the foreground. Palmerston North City Library, ID 2007N_Poh2_RTL_0852

Why should we study New Zealand’s environmental history? and how is it different from “conventional” history?

These are the questions that Paul Star asks in his essay entitled Environmental history and New Zealand history, first written in 2008, but recently republished on Environment and Nature in New Zealand.

Star offers seven compelling reasons why it is important. And of course, the key difference between environmental history and history is that while people are the central players in conventional history, the relationship between people and the environment is the focus in environmental history. Continue reading

In search of Arcadia?

Cole_Thomas_The_Course_of_Empire_The_Arcadian_or_Pastoral_State_1836
Thomas Cole’s The Arcadian or Pastoral State, 1834

A series of articles were recently published on Environment and Nature in New Zealand, all drawn from essays written between 1989 and 2000 by students in history at the University of Otago. 

A prominent theme in the essays covering the colonial period is the disconnect between the expectations of immigrants and the reality of what they found, particularly in respect to the environment. Continue reading

Creating a Pastoral World through Fire: the case of the Manawatu

Hiwinui farmscape JPG
“Rolling hill country” of the Manawatu, a landscape created by fire. Photo: C. Knight

This article, published in the lastest issue of the Journal of New Zealand Studies, examines the role of fire in the opening up of bush country in the region of Manawatu for pastoral farming. Within only a few decades, bush burns had transformed a densely forested environment into one of verdant pasture – leaving only the charred stumps and limbs of incinerated trees as evidence of the dense, impenetrable forest that once harboured moa and other ancient forest creatures. Continue reading