Keith Sinclair

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Sir Keith Sinclair

Born(1922-12-05)5 December 1922
Auckland, New Zealand
Died20 June 1993(1993-06-20) (aged 70)
OccupationHistorian, poet
Political party Labour
Spouse(s)Mary Edith Land (m. 1947)
Raewyn Dalziel (m. 1976)
Relatives Mark Sinclair (son)[ disambiguation needed ]
Cameron Sinclair (son)
Harry Sinclair (son)
Stephen Sinclair (son)
Jan Cumming (daughter)

Sir Keith Sinclair CBE (5 December 1922 – 20 June 1993) was a New Zealand poet and historian.


Academic career

Born and raised in Auckland, Sinclair was a student at Auckland University College, which was then part of the University of New Zealand. He was awarded a PhD at the College and was made a professor of history at the University of Auckland in 1963. [1]

In 1966, Sinclair and fellow lecturer Bob Chapman established The University of Auckland Art Collection, beginning with the purchase of several paintings and drawings by Colin McCahon. The Collection is now managed by the Centre for Art Research, based at the Gus Fisher Gallery.

Sinclair won widespread acclaim for his first book of history, The Origins of the Maori Wars (1957). His next book, A History of New Zealand (1959), is often regarded as a classic in New Zealand history. The book remains in print, being revised several times, the last, with additions by fellow academic Raewyn Dalziel, in 2000. In 1967 he founded the New Zealand Journal of History.

In both his poetry and his work as a historian, Sinclair was a nationalist, in the sense that he was concerned with forging a national identity for New Zealand that was independent of its colonial origins. [1]

Political life

In the 1969 general election he was the Labour Party candidate for Eden. He won the electorate on the night, but was defeated 3 weeks later on the final count (including special votes) by only 67 votes. [2] Later he wrote an acclaimed biography of Labour Prime Minister Walter Nash who had left his vast personal archives at Sinclair's disposal. The book won the 1977 National Book Award. [1]

Later life

In the 1983 Queen's Birthday Honours, Sinclair was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to literature. [3] Two years later, he was made a Knight Bachelor, for services to historical research and literature, in the 1985 Queen's Birthday Honours. [4] He then taught history at the University of Auckland until his retirement in 1987. Halfway Round the Harbour, an autobiography, was published posthumously in 1993.

In 2003, the University of Auckland established the Keith Sinclair Chair in History in his honour. In 2005, he was named one of New Zealand's Top 100 History Makers.

One of his sons is the actor Harry Sinclair; another, Stephen, is a New Zealand playwright and poet. While he refused to acknowledge her existence,[ citation needed ] his daughter Jan Cumming is an esteemed lawyer and published writer. [ citation needed ]





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  1. 1 2 3 Chan, Stephen (4 August 1993). "Obituary: Sir Keith Sinclair". Independent. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  2. Norton, Clifford (1988). New Zealand Parliamentary Election Results 1946–1987: Occasional Publications No 1, Department of Political Science. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington. p. 220. ISBN   0-475-11200-8.
  3. "No. 49376". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 11 June 1983. p. 34.
  4. "No. 50155". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 15 June 1985. p. 1.