Friday, June 26, 2015

Invitation to MCH Public History Talk, Wednesday 1 July - Dr Grant Morris on his book 'Prendergast: Legal Villain'

In his recent book Dr Morris explores James Prendergast the man, the lawyer, and the judge. This book provides fascinating insights into different parts of the nineteenth-century British Empire and, in particular, colonial Wellington, featuring bitter feuds, ground-breaking judgments and personal tragedy. It finally provides the full story behind the name that every New Zealand law student knows.
James Prendergast is the most infamous figure in New Zealand’s legal history, known mainly for his condemnation of the Treaty of Waitangi as “a simple nullity” in 1877. But during his lifetime Prendergast was a highly respected lawyer and judge. He was arguably New Zealand’s dominant legal professional from 1865 to 1899, and his good reputation remained intact until the 1980s, when the Treaty of Waitangi finally returned to the centre of New Zealand political life. 
The more the Treaty has been celebrated, the more Prendergast has been condemned. Who was this legal villain? Was he really a villain at all?  His comprehensive biography charts Prendergast’s life from his upbringing in the heart of London’s legal world through to his long and eventful reign as New Zealand’s third Chief Justice. 
On the way it details his ill-fated adventures in colonial Victoria and his rise to prominence in gold-rush Dunedin. It also analyses Prendergast’s pivotal role as Attorney-General during the New Zealand Wars and his controversial part in authorising the invasion of Parihaka.

About the author

Dr Grant Morris is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Victoria University of Wellington. His research and teaching interests include legal history, law and literature and alternative dispute resolution. Dr Morris has a particular interest in the New Zealand legal profession from 1860 to 1900. He is the author of Law Alive: The New Zealand Legal System in Context. Prendergast: Legal Villain?

Please join us on Wednesday 1 July at 12.15pm at Manatu Taonga (Ministry for Culture and Heritage) L4, ASB House, 101-103 The Terrace, Wellington.

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