Paul Moon gets first higher doctorate

18 Nov, 2021
Paul Moon gets first higher doctorate

Professor of History Paul Moon is the first academic to be awarded a higher doctorate by Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

It is an accomplishment for the new Doctor of Literature and a milestone for the University, now in its 21st year.

A higher doctorate is the highest academic honour that is awarded by the University and recognises Professor Moon’s original contribution of excellence in historical knowledge, of international and authoritative standing.

Derek McCormack, Vice-Chancellor, says during Professor Paul Moon’s 28 years at AUT, he has become a highly respected colleague and mentor for his students as a teacher and research supervisor.

“Paul has made an extraordinary contribution to AUT, not just for the practice and study of History, but also as a critic and conscience of society. AUT is proud to have a scholar worthy of such an award amongst its staff.”

In applying for the higher doctorate, Professor Moon submitted three books that were written over a period of 12 years: Encounters: The Creation of New Zealand, Ka Ngaro Te Reo: Māori Language Under Siege in the Nineteenth Century and The Rise and Fall of James Busby: His Majesty’s British Resident in New Zealand.

A University review panel forwarded his application to three examiners of international standing in the field of history, who each independently recommended that the degree be awarded.

Professor Moon says that in this way applying for a higher doctorate was “a useful gamble.”

“Either you get complete support from each examiner or the degree is not awarded,” he says.

Applicants have to wait at least 10 years after being awarded a doctorate and if unsuccessful can only re-apply once.

“You only realistically get one shot at it,” Professor Moon says, “and I expect now there will be other people in the University who will follow suit.”

Professor Moon’s specialism is in 19th Century New Zealand history, particularly the philosophies of colonisation.

“We all know what colonisation is,” he says. “It’s been copiously documented. We know what happened, who was responsible, the ruptures that it caused, and the fact that we are still living with its consequences. But why did it happen? That is the more important question, in a way, and one that requires new ways of looking at events, causes, morality, and agency.

“How colonisation happened, and specifically what propelled it are crucial considerations to understanding its patterns and dimensions.”

Professor Moon teaches papers at AUT on The Treaty of Waitangi, oral history, nostalgia and utopianism, as well as on research methods. He is also supervising post-graduate students.

History is a “meta textbook”, he says, of what has worked in the past, what has gone wrong, and why – which people ignore at their peril. It’s also part of the architecture of our identity, and the more we explore history, the more intricate that architecture becomes.
Professor Moon says he is pleased to be awarded a higher doctorate, and it is nice to have the recognition.

“In my particular area, the people I research are all dead. So having spent decades researching them, it’s good to know that the living register that work as being of value.

“But I’m not sort of person who jumps around excitedly to celebrate something like this. Now that it’s done, I simply go onto the next thing.”

Professor Moon is currently working on two books: one on tourism in New Zealand in the 1900s, and one on the history of Auckland in the 20th Century.

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