Kin: A collective biography of a New Zealand working-class family

Kin A collective biography of a New Zealand working class family

Melanie Nolan

(Out of print)

February 2006
252pp, Paperback
B&W photos and cartoons
ISBN 1-877257-34-6

Biography is the single largest genre of history written, published and read. Yet what can a study of the one tell us about the many?

Biographers often acknowledge the tension in selecting the ‘obviously significant’ subject rather than one who is ‘representative’, yet they rarely consider the problems arising from using a single case. They sidestep the question: how typical is my subject of her or his class, profession or gender?

Melanie Nolan focuses on this issue of variance within the New Zealand working class by examining the life, culture and identity of Jack McCullough, Workers’ Representative on the Arbitration Court 1908–1921, and his four siblings – Margaret, Jim, Sarah and Frank.

‘Five life stories of individuals not connected to each other constitute five separated pieces, perhaps five gems but with no cumulative power unless they are taken from the same social world. But the life stories of five persons connected by close kinship ties . . . bring more information than five separated stories: they illuminate and reflect upon each other like the gems of a necklace.’ Daniel Bertaux and Catherine Delcroix

Winner of the Ian Wards Prize of the Archives and Records Association of New Zealand, 2006

Melanie Nolan is an Associate Professor in History at Victoria University of Wellington, where she teaches Australian and New Zealand history. Her most recent book was Breadwinning: New Zealand women and the state (Canterbury University Press, 2000). She is currently writing a history of gender and professional society in Australasia, in which she considers the role of cohorts and generations in history.

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