‘True son of New Zealand’ awarded US Honorary Fellowship

06 November 2017
From left: Professor Constance Backhouse (Citation reader, Ottawa); David Williams; Professor Bruce Mann (Chair ASLH Honors Committee, Harvard); Professor Rebecca Scott (President of ASLH, Michigan).

Professor David Williams from the University of Auckland, has been elected as an Honorary Fellow of the American Society for Legal History (ASLH), in recognition of a lifetime of scholarly distinction and leadership in the field.

It is the first time in the ASLH’s 61-year history that a New Zealander has ever received an award, the highest honour conferred on a fellow historian.

In announcing the award in Las Vegas (last week), the Society’s citation stated that ‘Williams’s remarkable scholarly contributions had laid the groundwork upon which New Zealand had become a world leader in the historical documentation of the encounter between Indigenous peoples, government, and settlers.’

It said “his peers at the Auckland Law School described him as ‘a true son of New Zealand’, a scholar who has waved the flag of New Zealand legal history magisterially, placing it squarely on the map of Australasian scholarship, demonstrating its significance and centrality through robust research and absorbing story-telling capacity that never loses sight of the humanity of the participants”.

Professor Williams is a strong proponent of racial equality both at home and abroad, and is known for taking a leading role critiquing the injustices done to indigenous people.

Described by colleagues as ‘a model for what an engaged scholar should be’, ASLH said it was their hope that his work will inspire other former colonial communities, where Indigenous-European reconciliation remains unfinished business.