Judith Binney's work spans nearly forty years of historical endeavour that began with the award-winning biography of the missionary Thomas Kendall, The Legacy of Guilt (1968). Her magisterial publication of 2009, Encircled Lands, is the culmination of many years' work on the history of the Urewera - a great scholarly enterprise that began with a visit to Maungapohatu in the late 1970s. The questions that presented themselves, in that place about that history, led to what Judith Binney has called 'the unanticipated trilogy': Mihaia (the biography of Rua Kenana); Nga Morehu (oral histories of women connected to the Ringatu church); and prizewinning biography of Te Kooti, Redemption Songs. Around this central core of remarkable books stands a ring of essays, exploring sidepaths, offering other stories, presenting glimpses tangential to her historical narratives.
The people of these 'stories without end' are those we meet in the books: Rua and Te Kooti, their wives and their descendants; the leaders of the Urewera; the schoolteachers from Maungapohatu; those early missionaries; the government men. Oral history brings its particular resonance to some essays; a discourse on symbols and maps lends insight to another; taking this very specific history, located in the Urewera, to readers outside New Zealand gives a new slant.
The stories in this collection are just that: narratives that flow one into another, filling out histories, bringing people out of the shadows, bringing scholarship to life. They are 'stories without end', from a writer who is also one of New Zealand's greatest scholars.