‘The product under consideration is Shist.’ So began New Zealand historian Keith Sinclair’s discussion of short histories in 1968. His irreverent diminutive is still occasionally heard among professional historians of a certain age. It is less often recalled that Sinclair was defending the worth of the short history against those who might think ‘Shist beneath their dignity’. After all, Sinclair was himself the author of a fine short history of New Zealand, and he was contributing to a collection of essays in honour of W.K. Hancock, who had arguably produced the most distinguished – and certainly the most influential – short history of Australia up to that time.
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