December 2010

George VI

"The highest of distinctions is service to others."

George VI

King's speechThe publication of this book coincides with the release of the movie "The King's speech", starring Colin Firth as George VI and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth. The book tells about how Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue helped the future king overcome a serious speech impediment thanks to unorthodox methods. If you are going to see this movie during the Christmas break, check out the biographies pertaining to the historical characters featured in this film.


Shelf help:

These are just some of the biographies and works concerning George VI and his contemporaries that can be found in the library collection

Syndetics coverA spirit undaunted : the political role of George VI
by Robert Rhodes James
"For anyone interested in the true role of monarchy and tired of seeing nothing but books based on gossip and heresay about meaningless trivia, here is something for you. Sir Robert's "A Spirit Undaunted" is simply an excellent and very readable story of the political role of Britain's 20th century monarchs, especially George VI. The detail and research is impeccable, and the reader truly gets to understand the personality of all those involved. For anyone interested in the British monarchy, I highly recommend this book." (Customer's review on
Suffrage 2010 posterQueen Elizabeth : the official biography of the Queen Mother
By William Shawcross
"With unrestricted access to the queen mother's personal papers, letters and diaries, this respectful, mostly uncritical biography by veteran journalist Shawcross (Sideshow) focuses on the courtship of Elizabeth (1900–2002), the daughter of a Scottish earl, by the future King George VI; the shocking abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson; and WWII, when Elizabeth's narrow escape from a bomb that hit Buckingham Palace helped her commiserate with her subjects during the blitz. Throughout, the queen mother is depicted as vivacious, charming, devout and dutiful, a dedicated protector of the arts if not an intellectual, and socially conservative."(description from
Suffrage 2010 posterBattle royal : Edward VIII & George VI, brother against brother
By Kirsty McLeod
"Behind every strong man stands a strong woman, the adage runs. It would perhaps be overly generous to label either Edward VIII or George VI a Hercules, but their respective wives were certainly clashing colossi, engaged in a titanic struggle that outlasted the Second World War, and which briefly threatened to alter its course dramatically. The story of the abdication crisis has been told and retold, but Kirsty McLeod's account cuts as striking a dash as one of Wallis's dresses (and at a fraction of the price). McLeod's main contention is that the bullying criticism of their father (George V) and the icy haughtiness of their mother (Queen Mary) cruelly impaired the two brothers and ill equipped them for their future roles."(description from

You can find more items about George VI in our catalogue here

From our databases:

Lionel Logue: article from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Edward VIII: article from Britannica Online

October 2010

New Zealand Women & the Vote

"Why are we concerned about allowing women to vote? They possess aspects of the knowledge of this world. Their knowledge should be utilised for the good of all. They are able to do this work. The world would be nothing if there were not women to assist in the discussion of all the laws being passed."

George Grey

Suffrage 2010 posterOn September the 19th,1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote. There is a display and exhibit at the Central library (until Monday 4th October) consisting in six panels containing information about the struggle for Women's Suffrage and successes by NZ women. There is also a facsimile of the original petition that can be seen in the display cabinet and a transcript is being held at the Arts & Music enquiries desk nearby so that people can see who signed.


Shelf help:

These are just some of the biographies and works about New Zealand women and the Vote that can be found in the library collection

Kate Sheppard : a biography : the fight for women's votes in New Zealand : the life of the woman who led the struggle
By Judith Devaliant
"Kate Sheppard was a remarkable woman who led a determined campaign to win the parliamentary franchise for the women of New Zealand in the 1890s. She went out to become one of the founders and leaders in the National Council of Women, and a respected figure in the international women's movement. During the years of the franchise campaign from 1887-1893, and much more so afterwards, she worked for a broad programme of humanitarian and social reforms. Her chief goal after 1893 was the right for women to sit in Parliament, which should have been granted with the franchise, but took over a quarter of a century to gain." (Introduction, p.1)
Syndetics book coverElizabeth Yates : the first lady mayor in the British Empire
By Judith Devaliant
"New Zealand's first elected female politician was a woman of remarkable tenacity and courage who endured abuse from her fellow councillors and members of the public, mainly because of her gender. The media helped propel her to international celebrity status as the subject of sensational headlines. Elizabeth yates served just one year as Mayor of Onehunga in 1894 but her legacy is seen in the increasing numbers of women entering local and national politics in the New Zealand of the 1900s." (Publisher's description)
The Suffragists : women who worked for the vote : essays from the Dictionary of New Zealand biography
with an introduction by Dorothy Page.
"The struggle to secure the vote for women in 1893 was long and hard. Auckland suffragist Amey Daldy saw that those working for the suffrage cause would have to be 'wise as serpents, harmless as doves' if they were to 'win the day'. The story of how they succeeded is told here by Dorothy page in an introductory essay, and in the 28 biographical portraits that follow.(Publisher's description)

You can find more items New Zealand women and the Vote in our catalogue here

From our databases:

John Hall: article from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Ada Wells: article from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

September 2010

British Prime Ministers

"Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen." Winston Churchill

Book jacketTony Blair's A Journey has just been published in Great Britain and this seems a good opportunity to get to know more about the men -and the one woman- who filled the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. To find out more about them consult our resources below.


Shelf help:

These are just some of the biographies and works about British Prime Ministers that can be found in the library collection


Syndetics book coverChurchill
By Paul Johnson
"In this enthusiastic yet first-rate biography, veteran British historian Johnson (Modern Times) asserts that Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was the 20th century's most valuable figure: No man did more to preserve freedom and democracy.... An ambitious, world-traveling soldier and bestselling author, Churchill was already famous on entering Parliament in 1899 and within a decade was working with Lloyd George to pass the great reforms of 1908-1911. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he performed brilliantly in preparing the navy for WWI, but blame - undeserved according to Johnson - or the catastrophic 1915 Dardanelles invasion drove him from office. Within two years, he was back at the top, where he remained until the Depression. Johnson delivers an adulatory account of Churchill's prescient denunciations of Hitler and heroics during the early days of WWII, and views later missteps less critically than other historians. He concludes that Churchill was a thoroughly likable great man with many irritating flaws but no nasty ones: he lacked malice, avoided grudges, vendettas and blame shifting, and quickly replaced enmity with friendship. Biographers in love with their subjects usually produce mediocre history, but Johnson, always self-assured as well as scholarly, has written another highly opinionated, entertaining work". Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (Amazon)
Syndetics book coverNeville Chamberlain : a biography
By Robert Self
"History has not looked kindly upon Neville Chamberlain. Despite a long and distinguished political career, his trip to Munich in 1938 and the 'appeasement' of Hitler have forever overshadowed his many other achievements and blighted his reputation, his name now synonymous with the futility of trying to reason with dictators and bullies. Yet, as this biography shows, there is much more to this complex and intriguing character than is generally supposed, and even the infamous events of 1938 are open to more charitable interpretations than is usually the case. Appeasement brought the British government crucial time in which to rearm, and in particular allowed the RAF to drastically increase the number of fighter aircraft it could muster for the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940. Based on the study of over 150 collections of private papers on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as exhaustive exploration of British government records held in the National Archives, it is no exaggeration to say that the author has surveyed virtually all the existing archival material written by or to Chamberlain, as well as a high proportion of that referring to him. As such this volume will no doubt establish itself as the definitive account of Chamberlain's life and career, and provide a much fuller and fairer picture of his actions than has hitherto been the case." (Amazon)
Syndetics book coverThe great man : scoundrel, genius and Britain's first Prime Minister
By Edward Pearce
"The year 1721 has many splendors, but there are also 13 public hanging days a year, drunkenness is endemic, and organized crime rampages through the streets. Only a generation earlier James II, suspected of conspiring to enforce Roman Catholicism and subordinate England to France, was driven out by the Whigs. In 1715 his son, the Pretender, failed to take the Crown by armed force. The new King, George I, an intelligent, moderate man, is cursed everywhere as a damned foreigner. James's followers, the Jacobites, conspire and are persecuted. In 1720, the South Sea Bubble, an attempt to finance state debt by runaway speculation, collapses. Ruined people mass in Westminster. The South Sea directors, says an MP, should be thrown into the sea. The Pretender could take over any day. Robert Walpole, once imprisoned for financial chicanery, assumes political control. When the rage subsides he becomes chief minister - or, a new title, "Prime Minister"." (Amazon)

You can find more items on British Prime Ministers in our catalogue here

From our databases:

David Lloyd George: article from Biography Resource Center

Margaret Thatcher: article from Discovering Collection

December 2010

Amelia Earhart, 1897-1937

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward."

Amelia Earhart

Image used with permission. Link is to Biography Resource Center

The first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic and the first person to fly solo across the Pacific, Amelia Earhart became the most famous female pilot of her time. Fascination continues to this day around Amelia's disappearance over the Pacific in her attempt to fly around the world, and her story is portrayed in the new film 'Amelia' - find out more about her with our resources below.


Shelf help:

These are just some of the biographies and works about Amelia Earhart that can be found in the library collection


Syndetics book coverAmelia Earhart : the thrill of it
By Susan Wels
"She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and the first person to fly solo across the Pacific. But Amelia Earhart was also a photographer, poet, hospital worker, truck hauler, fashion designer, social worker, and student of chemistry, physics, and medicinebefore she vanished mysteriously in her airplane over the Pacific Ocean in July 1937. 'Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It' is the first premium-quality illustrated biography to cover all facets of the icons life, featuring never-before-seen photographs, artifacts, letters, documents, and maps. It also includes fascinating newly-revealed details about Amelia's life and brings the story of her disappearance up-to-date with the latest information about the search for her remains in the Pacific Ocean. 'Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It' vividly captures the essence of Amelia Earhart and her unorthodox, unflinching zeal for living life." (Global Books in Print)
Syndetics book coverAmelia : the centennial biography of an aviation pioneer / Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon.
"Unlike the majority of books on Earhart, this one focuses on her entire life, and not just her mysterious disappearance. The authors strongly emphasize that their subject was much more than another aviator trying to set new records. Beginning with her childhood, they analyze why Earhart became not only one of aviation's great pioneers, but also a champion of women's rights and a devoted member of her family. When the inevitable disappearance is covered, it is handled with an almost scientific methodology, looking at all of the currently held theories." (School Library Journal)
Letters from Amelia, 1901-1937
Edited by Jean L. Backus
"Until 'Letters from Amelia' amazingly little has been known about the deepest recesses of her heart. Written under all conditions - in schools, on trains, from the White House - these engrossing messages show devotion, wisdom, and a hilarious talent for playing with the English language, as well as a rare ability to stand apart from her own legend. 'Letters from Amelia' is an apt testimony to the totality of an extraordinary person." (Book jacket)

You can find more items on Amelia Earhart in our catalogue here

From our databases:

Articles from Biography Resource Center

Articles from Discovering Collection

June 2009

Queen Victoria, 1819-1901

The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.

Queen Victoria in her coronation robes. Painting by Sir George Hayter.

portrait of Queen Victoria

The new film The Young Victoria, takes a look at Queen Victoria in her younger years as she begins her accession to the throne, casting the perspective of a passionate and vibrant young woman rather than that of the older monarch we are more used to seeing portrayed. Find out more about the longest reigning monarch in Britain's history with our resources below.


Shelf help:

These are just some of the biographies and works about Queen Victoria that can be found in the library collection


Amazon book link. Becoming Queen
By Kate Williams
"Becoming Queen reveals an energetic and vibrant woman, determined to battle for power. It also documents the Byzantine machinations behind Victoria's quest to occupy the throne, and shows how her struggles did not end when finally the crown was placed on her head. Laying bare the passions that swirled around the throne in the eighteenth century, Becoming Queen is an absorbingly dramatic tale of secrets, sexual repression and endless conflict." (Global Books in Print)
Amazon book link. Queen Victoria: A Personal History
By Christopher Hibbert
"In 'Queen Victoria: A Personal History' we see Victoria develop from the young, inexperienced Queen in thrall to the charming, cynical and devoted Melbourne, to the intimidating matriarch who so terrified members of her household that they were once seen scurrying away across the lawn at Sandringham, crying "The Queen! The Queen!" when she appeared unexpectedly at the garden door. Victoria and her ministers are brought vividly to life, as are all those whom the Queen came to know, to love, dislike, revere or denigrate, from her mother's friend Sir John Conroy to her own adored husband, Prince Albert, who patiently endured her petulant tantrums. This biography is based on a wide variety of sources, including the Queen's voluminous correspondence and intimate journals." (Amazon)
Amazon book link. Victoria and Albert
By Richard Hough
"When the 20-year-old Queen Victoria married Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840, the United Kingdom was the richest and most powerful country in the world. Hough draws chiefly on Victoria's letters and extant journals to give us the story of these young people until Albert's premature death from typhoid in 1861. We read of Victoria's secluded upbringing and limited education, designed to shield her from the decadence and unpopularity of her predecessors on the throne, and of Albert's sense of moral duty and public service, in contrast with his own equally dissolute family. Despite occasional rows and misunderstandings, Victoria was totally devoted to her consort." (Kirkus Reviews)

A royal conflict : Sir John Conroy and the young Victoria, by Katherine Hudson

You can find more items on Queen Victoria in our catalogue here

From our databases:

Queen Victoria and the palace martyr, History Today article by Kate Williams (author of Becoming Queen above) takes a look at the Bedchamber Crisis and the ensuing political furore it created which is featured in the film The Young Victoria (from Biography Resource Center)

More articles from Biography Resource Center

Articles from Discovering Collection


You can also find out more about Queen Victoria and other members of the Royal Family throughout history on the Official Website of The British Monarchy.

May 2009

Charles Darwin, 1809-1882

The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.

The Descent of Man (1871), Chapter 4.

Image used with permission. Link is to Biography Resource CenterFebruary saw the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, considered to be one of the most influential scientific works of all time.

Find out more about Charles Darwin from the resources below.


Shelf help:

Biographies on Darwin are in the Biography section of the library under DAR. You'll also find books on evolution at 576.8 in the science area of the non-fiction, and biographical dictionaries of scientists at 509.2 - these are excellent for concise outlines of a scientist's life and works.

It's also important to note that Darwin's work has had an impact on disciplines other than science, e.g. philosophy, and these books will be shelved in other areas - try this search for all books about Darwin.

Darwin's works are scattered through the science section. Follow this link to find Darwin's works on the library catalogue.

Below you'll find several recent titles about Darwin:


Amazon book link. Charles Darwin
By Janet Browne
"I realized that I had never fully understood Fitzroy or Lyell or Dr. Darwin or Emma ... especially Darwin himself. Janet Browne not only makes these historical figures real, three dimensional people, but she shows so elegantly how they affected and interacted with one another. This is not just another biography of Darwin, but a unique and important contribution; it will outlast all others. The scholarship is ... impeccable."--John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Annotation
Amazon book link. Darwin's gift to science and religion
By Francisco J. Ayala.
"An evolutionary biologist, Francisco Ayala offers lucid explanations of the science, reviews the history that led us to ratify Darwin's theories, and makes a convincing argument for uncoupling science and religion - different ways of knowing the world - thus providing a clear path forward for a confused and conflicted public." (Book Jacket)
Amazon book link. Darwin's island : the Galapagos in the garden of England
By Steve Jones.
"Whatever genes and cultural traditions transmit curiosity, Charles Darwin inherited a uniquely productive sequence. Steve Jones' refreshing contribution to the bicentennial gives the Galapagos finches as little attention as did Darwin himself. Seasickness made Darwin an island-hopper for whom the arrival was everything, the voyage hell. Indeed, after the unpublished 25-year old naturalist got back to dry land at Falmouth on 2 October 1836, he never again left the shores of the British Isles. (He maintained, however, his own worldwide web of correspondents.)"

So, the Voyage of the Beagle and the Origin of Species are here set on one side in order to show Darwin's curiosity and experimental ingenuity as he tackles a lifetime of questions inspired by his own family with its domesticated animals and plants; the teeming life in the soil of his home at Down House and the botanical riches of Ashdown Forest. What are the effects of inbreeding? How do plants move (eg to climb up the Kent hop-poles)? Why do worms matter? Professor Jones links these and more of Darwin's major inquiries to today's research and to the practical consequences in a world so suddenly - in an evolutionary timespan - dominated by man." (Amazon reviewer)

From our databases:

To find out more online, check out articles about Claude Monet on our Biography Resource Center database, and on History Resource Center.

Plus, have a look at this Dec 26, 1859, article entitled Darwin On The Origin Of Species from the Times Digital Archive database (published barely a month after 'On the Origin of Species' was published).


The following websites also carry a range of information about Charles Darwin and his work:

February 2009

Claude Monet, 1840-1926

People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love.

Image used with permission.  Link is to a Monet biographyWith the largest and richest collection of Impressionist paintings ever to come to New Zealand currently on display at Te Papa, we take a look this month at Claude Monet. Considered by many to be the leading member of the Impressionist school of painting, he often worked directly onto the canvas to explore his fascination with changing light and its effects on the landscape and objects in it. Initially often criticised for this revolutionary approach at the time, today his paintings are admired and loved by people all around the world.

Find out more about Claude Monet from the resources below.

Shelf help:

Biographies and works about Monet can be found in the library collection - many are held at the call number 759.4 Mon and in the Biography section. Here are just a few of them:


Amazon book link. The treasures of Monet
Michael Howard (2007)
"Monet is one of the leading figures of the Impressionist group of painters that came to the fore in France in the second half of the nineteenth century. This project is aimed at established fans and for those wishing to learn about him for the first time. With the inclusion of facsimiles of some 30 documents from Claude Monet's personal papers and associated archives, "Musee Marmottan's Treasures of Monet" offers a unique insight into his life and works - from his childhood and youth in Le Havre to his study of art in Paris, growth as a painter and development of a style that made him one of the most sought-after artists of his day and in subsequent years." (Amazon)
Amazon book link. Monet by himself : paintings, drawings, pastels, letters
Edited by Richard Kendall ; translations by Bridget Strevens Romer (2004)
"This volume on the life and work of Claude Monet is quite unlike any other book on this popular artist, as for the first time his letters have been brought together with his paintings, pastels and drawings. There are letters to his fellow artists and youthful friends, long affectionate letters to family and loved ones and begging letters in times of hardship. We read of Monet's persistence in money matters, his frustrations and successes while on painting expeditions to Italy, Brittany and Norway, and his experience of solitude, illness and bereavement in later life. Monet emerges from the correspondence as a more troubled and complex individual than his sun-filled canvases might suggest. Alongside the artist's letters are more than 200 superb colour reproductions. These accompany the text and enable the reader to follow the young artist through his first encounters with the Parisian art scene, his days as a commanding presence in the Impressionist movement and the final chapter of his life when he produced some of his most ambitious and colourful work at Giverny." (Amazon)
Amazon book link. Claude Monet 1840-1926 : a feast for the eyes
Karin Sagner (2006)
"Claude Monet (1840-1926) was both the most typical and the most individual painter associated with the Impressionist movement. His long life and extraordinary work were dedicated to a pictorial exploration of the sensations which reality, and in particular landscape, offer the human eye. Monet's poplars, grain stacks, Rouen Cathedral, and water lilies paintings - among the most beloved works of the Impressionist period - were created long before the currents of the contemporary avant-grade and had an inestimable influence on the development of modern art. This book traces the life's work of one of art history's most beloved painters." (Amazon)
Amazon book link. Monet, or, The triumph of impressionism
Daniel Wildenstein (2003)
"Along with Turner, no artist has sought more than Monet to capture light itself on canvas. Of all the Impressionists, it was the man Cezanne called "only an eye, but my God what an eye!" who stayed completely true to the principle of absolute fidelity to the visual sensation, painting directly from the object. It could be said that Monet reinvented the possibilities of colour, and whether it was through his early interest in Japanese prints, his time in the dazzling light of Algeria as a conscript, or his personal acquaintance with the major painters of the late 1800s, what Monet produced throughout his long life would change forever the way we perceive both the natural world and its attendant phenomena. The high point of his explorations were the late series of waterlilies, painted in his own garden at Giverny, that, in their moves towards almost total formlessness, are really the origin of abstract art. This biography does full justice to this most remarkable and profoundly influential of artists, and offers numerous reproductions and archive photos alongside a detailed and insightful commentary." (Amazon)
Other titles:

You can find more items in a catalogue search under the subject headings Claude Monet and Impressionism (Art) France

Claude Monet resources online:

To find out more online, check out articles about Claude Monet on our Biography Resource Center database, and on History Resource Center. Plus try Oxford Art Online, for biographies and images of his artworks.

The following websites also carry a range of information about Monet and images of his work.

January 2009

Robert Burns, 1759-1796

He is not Dante and he is not Pushkin. It was not given to him, as it was to Shakespeare, to illuminate our moral universe. He does not, all that often, make us think. But he makes us laugh, and he makes us cry, and in doing so, most precious of all poetic gifts, he heightens the sense we have of our common humanity. And that is why the lad who was born in Kyle belongs not just to the keepers of the flame but to the whole world.

Biographer Ian McIntyre in Dirt and Deity: A Life of Robert Burns, (1995), p444.

Link to Biography Resource Center articles.This month sees the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great Scottish poet and songwriter, Robert Burns. One of his most recognisable works, the ever popular 'Auld Lang Syne', is sung globally on New Year's Eve and Burns Night is also celebrated worldwide every year on January 25th, the day of his birth.

Find out more about a farmer's son who became the 'people's poet' from the resources below.

Robert Burns resources online:

To find out more online check out articles about Robert Burns on our Biography Resource Center database.

See also the website for further links and information.

Shelf help:

Biographies and collections of his works can be found in the library collection, with many at the call number 821 BUR


Amazon book link. Dirt & deity : a life of Robert Burns / Ian McIntyre (1995)
"This biography illuminates and explores the complexities and contradictions of Burns's character and personality, untangling the myth from the legend. Based on new evidence from 700 letters Burns wrote during his life, McIntyre concentrates on the circumstances of the writing of poetry itself, and paints a vivid picture of Burns's emotional and impulsive political views, the cruelty and gentleness of which he was capable, stressing the importance and the quality of the satirical poetry as well as the unforgettable love poetry immediately associated with his name." (
Amazon book link. Robert Burns, the tinder heart / Hugh Douglas (1996)
"Attitudes to sex have changed since Burns's time, passing through the prim, censorious nineteenth century to move slowly towards the more open attitudes of the present day. In writing about Burns, his women and the influence of love on his poetry, biographers have followed the mores of their own day, rather than his. Consequently, for two centuries his sex life has been denied and glossed over, even though it was the real catalyst for much of his poetry and songs. In all this the real Robert Burns has been lost. So let us explore the life of the real Robert Burns." (Library Catalogue)
Other titles:

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