Michael Bassett was born in Auckland 1938, and educated at Owairaka School,
Dilworth School and Mt Albert Grammar. He completed his BA (1958) and MA degrees in history
at the University of Auckland before winning a James B. Duke Fellowship to Duke University
in 1961. There he completed a PhD in American history before returning to lecture at the
University of Auckland in 1964. He was Senior Lecturer in History when elected to the
Auckland City Council in 1971 and to New Zealand's parliament in 1972. He was a backbench
MP in the Labour governments of Prime Ministers Norman Kirk and Bill Rowling (1972-5),
and then a senior opposition figure before becoming Minister of Health and Local Government
(1984-7) in the Labour administration of Prime Minister David Lange. Between 1987 and 1990
he was Minister of Internal Affairs, Local Government, Civil Defence and Arts and Culture.
He was Chairman of the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board and of the 1990 Commission that
commemorated the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Since retiring from active politics in 1990 Dr Bassett has worked with the New Zealand
Expo team in Seville (1991-2), been J.B. Smallman Professor of History at the University of
Western Ontario (1992-3, 1994 and 1996), and taught courses at Auckland University Medical
School (1997-2000). In 2002 he was Fulbright Professor of New Zealand Studies at Georgetown
University, Washington DC. He is the author of thirteen books on New Zealand History:
Confrontation '51: the 1951 Waterfront Dispute (1972);
The Third Labour Government (1976);
Three Party Politics in New Zealand 1911-1931 (1982);
Sir Joseph Ward (1993);
Coates of Kaipara (1995);
The Mother of All Departments: A History of the Department of Internal Affairs (1997);
The State in New Zealand 1840-1984: Socialism Without Doctrines? (1998);
Tomorrow Comes the Song: A life of Peter Fraser (with Michael King, 2001);
Roderick Deane: His Life & Times (with Judith Bassett, 2006);
The Myers (with Paul Goldsmith, 2007)
Working with David (2008)
Puketutu and its People (with Paul Goldsmith) 2008
City of Sails: The History of Auckland City Council, 1989-2010 (2013)
He has contributed entries to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and to the
Dictionary of National Biography (London), and has written several textbooks that have
been used in New Zealand and British schools over the years. In December 1999 Political
Science (Wellington) carried an article of his entitled "The Essentials of Successful
Leadership in Twentieth-Century New Zealand Politics".
Dr Bassett spent ten years (1994-2004) as a tribunal member of the Waitangi Tribunal that deals with Maori claims. For more than six years he wrote regular columns on political subjects for the Fairfax papers, the Dominion Post (Wellington), the Press (Christchurch) and the Waikato Times (Hamilton). These columns won him the accolade of Best Political Columnist in New Zealand in the Qantas Media Awards in 2004. He is currently working on a book on the prime ministers of New Zealand. He was appointed to the Board of the Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa in 2009.
He is married to Judith Bassett who taught history at the University of Auckland and who has had an active career in Auckland's local government, having chaired the Auckland Area Health Board (1988-89), and the ASB Charitable Trusts (1988-2002). She was an elected member of the Auckland Regional Council between 2001 and 2010 and chaired Auckland Regional Holdings 2004-2010. She is in her second term as an elected member of the Auckland District Health Board and sits on the Auckland Library Heritage Committee. They have two grown-up children (Emma a lawyer) and Sam (an accountant), and three grandchildren, Isobel, Harry and Edward.