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David Grant
Photo Credit: © David Grant, photograph by Liz Pa'u

David Grant is a Wellington historian and author with a background in journalism and teaching. In 1999 he was awarded Victoria University’s JD Stout Research Fellowship in New Zealand cultural studies. He reviews for New Zealand Books, and is a guest lecturer in history at Victoria University. As well as contributing to a wide range of anthologies, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, journals and magazines, he did background research for the TV series One People: Our Century. His books include: Man For All Seasons: The life and times of Ken Douglas; The Big Blue: Snapshots of the 1951 waterfront lockout (as editor); Those Who Can Teach: A History of Secondary Education in New Zealand from the Union Perspective; Two Over Three on Goodtime Sugar: The New Zealand TAB turns 50; Jagged Seas: The New Zealand Seamen’s Union 1879–2003; Field punishment No. 1: Archibald Baxter, Mark Briggs and New Zealand’s anti-militarist tradition. He has also researched prime minister of the Third Labour Government, Norman Kirk, and a history of the Christian Pacifist Society, New Zealand's first major pacifist group.

The New Zealand Listener wrote of Man For All Seasons: The life and times of Ken Douglas:Douglas, Grant says, wanted a warts-and-all biography and the Wellington historian has delivered one, with no glossing over … A Man for All Seasons is a timely contribution to our recent history …’ Nevil Gibon, editor of the National Business Review proclaimed it ‘a good read’ and said ‘David Grant gives an excellent summing up of arguably the controversial and enigmatic public figure of recent times’, while Metro judged it a ‘very, very fine biography’ and ‘a vivid and detailed social history’, and the Weekend Herald, too, commended it as ‘a vivid social history’.
Oliver Riddell, a political journalist with the Otago Daily Times, declared: ‘The early chapters are the best account of late-19th and early 20th century New Zealand life I have ever read.’

Writing in the New Zealand Journal of History, Victoria University of Wellington’s Dr Jim McAloon wrote: ‘Grant’s treatment of the issues is wide-ranging, balanced and comprehensive. This biography is a significant contribution to contemporary New Zealand history.’

Historian and librarian David Verran, in the Labour History Project Newsletter, wrote: ‘The story of Douglas’s political, personal and union development is analysed in depth but always with clarity and context … all readers will receive a much clearer understanding of from where the labour movement has come, and Douglas’ role in that.’

Chris LaHatte Blog said of it: ‘One of the best political biographies published in recent years … required reading for anyone who wants to understand trade union history … . It is well written — the insight into working class New Zealand in Wellington in the last century is a sociological triumph on its own.’

Writing in the Hawkes Bay Weekend, Owen Brown described how this ‘well crafted and highly recommended’ biography has ‘interwoven [the] themes’ of personal biography and ‘a broad historical account of industrial relations in New Zealand since the 1940s’. Comedienne and political activist Michelle A’Court, speaking on Radio New Zealand National’s Nine to Noon, said: ‘I was really excited by this book … .David Grant does an extremely good job in explaining the contradictions of Ken Douglas … it’s full of brilliant stories.’
The Timaru Herald found that this ‘extremely readable book’ helps us ‘understand more about Ken Douglas than we did before’ and concluded ‘He was certainly a much more rounded man than was portrayed at the time, a deep thinker on a wide range of topics in spite of his lack of education.’
Bryan Walker, in the Waikato Times, pinpointed the ‘engaging detail’ in this ‘painstaking account’ of the story of how Douglas truly ‘earned his place in the New Zealand Order of Merit. Grant has done a fine job of showing that.’

Books by David Grant

The Mighty Totara: The Life and Times of Norman Kirk

A major biography of arguably New Zealand's greatest modern political leader

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Man for All Seasons

A major biography of Ken Douglas, the most powerful union leader in modern New Zealand history.

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