Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Dissenter’s diary reveals the ‘other’ side of wartime NZ

What happened to pacifists in WWII New Zealand? Why was New Zealand so intolerant of dissent? The Prison Diary of A.C. Barrington: Dissent and conformity in wartime New Zealand draws on a rare first-hand account of prison life by one of New Zealand’s leading pacifists, A.C. (Archie) Barrington. Barrington was a leading figure in the Riverside community in Motueka.

‘Barrington’s diary,’ says author Professor John Pratt, ‘gives us insight into a side of New Zealand during WWII that is largely unknown. Such documents are extremely rare – nothing similar from this period has been published before.’

While our allies abandoned the punitive and merciless measures taken against dissenters during WWI, New Zealand continued with its hard-line approach. In the course of the war about 800 men and one woman were prosecuted.

Incarcerated in Mount Crawford Prison for his beliefs, Archie Barrington kept an illicit diary by scrawling daily entries in the margins of books. Years later, while going through his father’s archive, his son John Barrington discovered the diary.

It was very hard in New Zealand at that time to stand out as being different,’ say John Pratt. ‘Archie Barrington was a principled and courageous man.’

Barrington recorded the squalid, rundown conditions, monotonous and exhausting labour, the intense cold from which there was little protection, and the strategies he and his fellow pacifists adopted to enable them to cope with prison life.

The Prison Diary of A.C. Barrington: Dissent and conformity in wartime New Zealand sheds new light on an era that was dominated by a rigid insistence on conformity. Pratt argues that the intolerance, suspicion and deep-seated antipathies towards difference cast a long shadow and can still be seen today in the current penal saturation in this otherwise friendly and hospitable land.

John Pratt has spent most of his academic career at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington. His research on comparative penology and the history of
imprisonment has earned him an international reputation. 

The Prison Diary of
A.C. Barrington
Dissent and conformity in
Wartime New Zealand

By John Pratt
Release Date: February 2016

ISBN 978-1-927322-31-4, $39.95

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