Tony Simpson is an award-winning social and cultural historian who has written some 15 published titles along with numerous articles and presentations and much journalism. He is a graduate in politics and history of the University of Canterbury (MA 1968), and has worked as a radio producer, an industrial advocate, television and film script writer, arts administrator and strategic planner and policy analyst. Among his better known works are The Sugarbag Years, an oral history of the Great Depression which gained a second place in the then Wattie Awards in 1975, Te Riri Pakeha, a history of Maori land loss between 1840 and 1970, The Immigrants: The Great Migration from Britain to New Zealand 1830–1890, and A Distant Feast which deals with the introduction of the European cuisine into New Zealand in the nineteenth century and the culinary traditions behind it.
Among others of his numerous works are: The Scone in New Zealand Literature: A Post Modernist Approach; The Treaty Speaks to Pakeha; Harvest Home and the Farmers’ Ordinary; Alchemy, Erotics and the Wife of Bath; and Looks Like It’s Open Season on Queers.
He was the president of the then PEN(NZ) in the 1980s, a member of the Literature Committee of the Arts Council, a judge and convenor of judges of the Montana Book Awards, and was more latterly until 2013 four years the president of the Society of Authors. For 10 years he was a board member of the Stout Centre for the Study of New Zealand Culture at Victoria University of Wellington, and is currently a board member of Copyright Licensing New Zealand.
He has received a number of awards and fellowships, notably from the Fulbright Foundation in 1983 to study whaling records relating to New Zealand in the United States, and the Arts Council Non-fiction Fellowship in Letters in 1995. In 2005 he was named Reviewer of the Year in the Montana Awards.
A Distant Feast was described by Cuisine magazine as ‘an important, elegant text on New Zealand’s culinary heritage’ and as ‘witty and well written’, and by The New Zealand Herald as a ‘fascinating and informative read, dotted with recipes to take your repertoire in new/old directions’.
He most recent work, Ambiguity & Innocence, is an account of the events and background to the confrontation between Marshall Tito’s partisan army and the New Zealand Division in the disputed Italian city of Trieste in May 1945, the last episode of the Second World War in Europe and the first of the Cold War.
He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005.