James Cowan : the significance of his journalism : a thesis presented in three volumes in fulfilment of the requirement for the award of Doctor of Philosophy in History at Massey University, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This thesis argues that to understand Cowan the historian, his interest in history and his way of writing history, one must return to the roots of his writing – his journalism. Cowan’s adroit penmanship meant that his history writing existed in close parallel to his journalism. His writing style varied little between the two areas, which meant that he reached a wide group of readers regardless of their reading level or tastes. His favourite topics included travel writing and recent history, that is, history in his lifetime. For a better understanding of how and why he wrote, some key aspects of his life and career have been selected for study. These aspects include his childhood, his early journalism as a reporter for the Auckland Star, and his later journalism for Railways Magazine. Finally, his legacy is considered from the viewpoint of his colleagues and contemporaries. Cowan the journalist was the making of Cowan the historian, and to better understand the strengths of his histories one must appreciate his journalistic background. Past and present cannot be easily separated, and his historical work becomes more clearly articulated in the present with the discovery of previously unknown material from the nineteenth century and representing a quarter of his journalism output. That material has can now be appreciated for what it is – as the wellspring of his writing, the original source of his histories.
Cowan, James, Cowan, James, 1870-1943, Journalists, New Zealand, Biography, History, 19th century, 20th century, White slave