Publication Date

November 1, 1999

Perspectives Section

In Memoriam

David Allan Hamer, who died unexpectedly in Wellington, New Zealand on May 16, 1999, was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1938. He was awarded a BA and MA with first class honors in history from Auckland University, and a DPhil from Oxford University in 1965. He taught at the University of Lancaster, the University of Auckland, and Victoria University of Wellington. At Victoria, Hamer served as chair of the department of history (1984–86; 1997); dean of arts (1988–91); and assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs (1991–94). The author of 10 books and many articles and speeches, Hamer's interests developed from British Liberal politics to politics in New Zealand. This change in focus led him to examine rural towns and towns on the frontier, broadly defined. That led in turn to path-breaking work in the comparative histories of urban frontiers. His most recent book, History in Urban Districts: The Historic Districts of the United States (Ohio State University Press) was published last year.

Hamer was very active in professional organizations and public history undertakings. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and an editorial adviser to both the New Zealand Journal of History and the Journal of Urban History. He was on the board of directors of the Urban History Association (1993–97). He chaired the Robert Kelley Award Committee for the National Council on Public History in 1999 and gave a paper at the 1998 meeting in Austin. His public history work included being a member of the board of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust; a member of the advisory committee of the Historical Publications Branch of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs; and membership on the committee making awards in oral history in connection with the Australian Sesquicentennial gift to New Zealand, 1991–94.

Hamer was instrumental in organizing a senior Fulbright grant in 1997 for a public historian from the United States to help design a public history MA program at Victoria. He spent a good deal of time helping to facilitate that initial public history course offering, and participated in a session on public history programs at the December 1997 meeting of the New Zealand Historical Association. Both as a scholar and as a public historian, Hamer worked to link historical theory and public practice in order to make more sophisticated the practice of history and heritage management for a broader public. Those of us who worked with him have lost a valuable friend and colleague, but the field of public history has lost a thoughtful and deeply engaged supporter.

Arizona State University

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