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Michael Stenson papers.

Identifier: MSS-Archives-A-189

Scope and Contents

Chiefly material relating to Dr Stenson's tenure as lecturer in South East Asian history, Auckland University, 1968- 1977. The material was removed from his office after his death, and is mainly correspondence and typescripts of published and unpublished writings.

During the processing of this collection a number of serials were removed and placed in the Library's Serieal Collection, including issues of Afro-Asian labour bulletin, Malaysian digest, The mirror, New Zealand foreign affairs review, Singapore bulletin, The Straits times annual andVietnam.


  • ca. 1968-1977


Conditions Governing Access

Not restricted.

Biographical / Historical

Michael (Mike) Roger Stenson (1938-1977) was a senior lecturer in history at the University of Auckland, specialising in Southeast Asian studies. He was an activist, involved in Labour Party and local body politics and his passion for social justice and the labour movement infused his academic work.

He grew up in Auckland, attended Mt Albert Grammar then moved on to Auckland University, where he achieved his MA in history in 1962. He married a member of his history class, Marcia.

After a period of secondary school teaching, Stenson won a Commonwealth Scholarship in 1965 to the newly established University of Malaya, where he completed his PhD on the country’s trade union movement, with its broader implications for the origins of the post-war communist insurgency. His revised doctoral thesis, entitled Industrial conflict in Malaya: prelude to the communist revolt of 1948, was published by Oxford University Press in 1970.

Stenson returned to Auckland University in 1968, to take part in the expansion of South-East Asian studies. He was a popular, unconventional teacher who was highly supportive of fellow colleagues and Malaysian/Singapore students. Other issues he became involved in were the plight of Polynesian migrants in Auckland, the environmental movement and the preservation of the old inner-city suburb of Parnell. In 1976, he undertook a six-month exchange at the Australian National University.

His most important academic contributions were an understanding of the class structure in Malaysia and the communist insurrection there. In addition to numerous publications, he also produced a major book, Class, communalism and colonialism in West Malaysia: the Indian case.

Mike Stenson died unexpectedly in 1977, in Burma, while on an extensive field trip through China and Southeast Asia.

Sources: Obituary: Holt, Jim. In : New Zealand Journal of History, Apr 1978; v.12 n.1:p.95-96. Obituary: Tarling, Nicholas. University of Auckland news, Mar. 1978, p.25. (1978): In memoriam, Review / Asian Studies Association of Australia. 1:3, 1-3. Retrieved from


1 metres (9 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs Marcia Stenson, 1977.


NRAM A931.

Inventory of the papers of Michael Stenson, ca 1968-1977.
Elizabeth MacFarlan.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, University of Auckland Repository

5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand