Secret History Book Launch
Read about the Secret History book launch, held at Unity Books, Wellington on 13 July 2023.
On 13 July 2023, Unity Books hosted the launch of the Stout Centre’s Richard S. Hill and Steven Loveridge’s co-authored Secret History: State Surveillance in New Zealand, 1900-1956 (Auckland University Press).
It was launched by the Minister responsible for New Zealand’s security services, Hon. Andrew Little, at a packed-out function. The Minister stated that the book "does an outstanding job of describing the early intelligence efforts of the nascent New Zealand state" and that he regarded it "as only a good thing that we now have a scholarly history of our principal HUMINT (or human intelligence) service."
The Minister noted that the main threat to the state over that period was perceived to be engagement in "radical politics—and that was mainly radical left politics and political movements that were seen as a threat to the establishment". He drew particular attention to the "Vegetable Club", a group of mostly left-of-centre Wellington professionals who met informally on Friday nights in the early 1950s for what were essentially discussion evenings over a few drinks. Their personal and political lives were penetrated by the Police Special Branch and its informants, and careers and reputations suffered.
He also acknowledged that surviving Club member Jackie Matthews (pictured here talking to co-author Richard Hill during his and Steven’s research) and descendants of members were still "hurt by the assessments that were made by Special Branch some 70 years ago… and that in the political, cultural and legal climate of the time there were few avenues to know or challenge [security] officials’ assessments." He hoped this acknowledgement would "assist the families and dependents of the Vegetable Club to heal".
Lastly, the Minister took the opportunity to stress the changes in structures and threat perceptions that have occurred since the middle of last century and, in looking forward to the next volume in this series, expressed hope that New Zealanders "can collectively develop a critical understanding of how those services operate in a healthy democracy".
To view the Book Launch
Reviews and Publications