Kiwi historian nabs leading role at Oxford University

Prominent New Zealand historian Professor James Belich has been appointed to one of the top jobs in the world in his field. 

Prominent New Zealand historian Professor James Belich has been appointed to one of the top jobs in the world in his field.

Professor Belich will take up the Beit Professorship of Commonwealth and Imperial History at Oxford University in the United Kingdom in October this year.

He is currently Professor of History at Victoria University’s Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies.

The Beit Professorship provides research leadership in Commonwealth, imperial and global history and is awarded to a historian of exceptional and international reputation.

The position was established in 1905 and Professor Belich will be the seventh historian to hold it.

Professor Belich says the appointment is an honour and will allow him to take his research interests, which he describes as ‘increasingly global’ to a wider canvas. 

As one of Oxford’s most senior historians, Professor Belich will also play a leading role in moving the discipline ahead.

One of his goals is to establish a Centre for Global History at Oxford University. “Global history is at an interesting point. It has to shake itself free of the assumption that it’s a history of Western civilisation.”

Born in Wellington, Professor Belich gained a BA and MA from Victoria. As a Rhodes Scholar, he went on to Oxford University and graduated as a doctor of philosophy in 1981.

His book The New Zealand Wars won the Trevor Reese Memorial Prize for historical scholarship in 1987 and was later turned into a major television documentary series. Other internationally acclaimed works include his two-volume history of New Zealand - Making Peoples and Paradise Reforged.

Replenishing the Earth, which has just been published in paperback, has drawn praise from some of the world’s leading historians.  

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