Alan Ward was born in Gisborne in 1935. His career reflects his upbringing in Poverty Bay where Māori and Pākehā interacted in daily life and where land issues were very real.
Alan's early research on East Coast Māori Trust lands gave him insight into the way in which the introduced law impinged upon Māori customary land tenure. He subsequently broadened these interests into a study of the extension of British administration into Māori districts, published as A Show of Justice: Racial 'Amalgamation' in Nineteenth Century New Zealand (1974), which has been reprinted several times and is standard reading in many university courses. His career as an academic historian was mixed with periods as a land administrator in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. In the 1980s he worked with French researchers studying the land reforms in New Caledonia. Since 1987 he has worked as a contract historian for the Waitangi Tribunal. He is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales.
Alan Ward regards land issues as centrally important to relations between the first inhabitants and later immigrants in South Pacific nations. Similarly, he regards recognition of the mishandling of land issues by governments in New Zealand as central to the adjustment of Māori–Pakeha relations under the Treaty of Waitangi. In An Unsettled History, he has drawn upon the various strands of his experience to appraise the settlement of Māori historical claims under the Treaty, and to show ways in which the process might be improved.
Alan was appointed as Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws (Hon Ll.D) by Victoria University of Wellington in 2010.
An Unsettled History: Treaty Claims in New Zealand Today (Bridget Williams Books, 1999)
A Show of Justice: Racial 'Amalgamation' in Nineteenth Century New Zealand (University of Toronto Press, 1973)