Dr David Vernon Williams

BA-LLB (VUW), BCL (Oxon), PhD (Dar es Salaam), Dip Theol (Oxon).

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Dr David V Williams holds a personal chair as Professor of Law at The University of Auckland. After study at the Victoria University of Wellington, he was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. He has tertiary qualifications in history, law and theology including a PhD from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He has taught at the University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Auckland. He was an independent researcher and barrister (1991-2001) specialising in legal history research relevant to Treaty of Waitangi claims.

For many years he was an activist in the Citizens Association for Racial Equality (CARE). He has worked with many iwi, but especially with Ngati Whatua Orakei from the days of the Bastion Point/Takaparawhau occupation in the 1970s through to the enactment of the Ngati Whatua Orakei Treaty Settlement Act 2012.

His book publications include the Māori Land Legislation Manual (& database)(CFRT, 1994/1995); 'Te Kooti tango whenua': The Native Land Court 1864-1909 (Huia, 1999); Crown Policy Affecting Māori Knowledge Systems and Cultural Practices (Waitangi Tribunal, 2001); Matauranga Māori and Taonga (Waitangi Tribunal, 2001); joint editor and contributor to Waitangi Revisited: Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi (OUP, 2005); A simple nullity?: The Wi Parata case in New Zealand Law and History (AUP, 2011). Additional publications include 16 book chapters, 36 refereed journal articles and 10 major technical reports. 

He has held visiting positions at the University of Oxford and the University of Dar es Salaam.

Research | Current

Current research topics include:

The workings of the Waitangi Tribunal (1975-2013); 

Perceptions of the "Crown" in the constitution and in national life (especially Crown-Maori relationships); and

Authoritarianism of the colonial state in the Mandated Territory of Tanganyika (1920-1945). 

Teaching | Current

LAW 121G - Law and Society

LAWHONS 716 - Legal History

LAWGENRL 423 - Legal History

Postgraduate supervision


Recent PhD completions:

Carwyn Jones, “The Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Process in Maori Legal History.” (University of Victoria, BC, 2013)

David Harvey, "The Law Emprynted and Englysshed: The Printing Press as an agent of change in law and legal culture 1475-1642." (2012)

Guy Charlton, “Constitutional Conflicts and Aboriginal Rights” (2010)

Eric Kwa, “Traditionalizing Sustainable Development: Law, Policy and Practice in Papua New Guinea" (2006)

Nin Tomas, “Key concepts of Tikanga Mäori (Mäori Custom Law)” (2006)

Recent Masters thesis completions:

LLM      Sarah Phillips, "Review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004" (2009)

MA       Jen Margaret, “Knowledge building in social movements” (Development Studies) (2009)


Visiting Fellow, Exeter College, Oxford (2009)

Visiting Professor, University of Dar es Salaam (2010)

Visiting Research Associate, St John's College Research Centre, Oxford (2014)


Member, Auckland University Press Board

Assistant Dean (PBRF), Faculty of Law

Areas of expertise

Treaty of Waitangi issues, colonial legal history, constitutional law

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Immediate Past President, Australia & New Zealand Law & History Society

Chair, St Isaac's Retreat House Trust, Opononi.

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Williams, D. V. (2017). The Treaty of Waitangi: Māori Magna Carta. In R. Bell, M. Kawharu, K. Taylor, M. Belgrave, P. Meihana (Eds.) The Treaty on the ground : where we are headed, and why it matters (pp. 29-52). Auckland, New Zealand: Massey University Press. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/34323
  • Williams, D. V. (2017). Myths and history: The Treaty of Waitangi as "The Magna Charta of New Zealand". In S. Winter, C. Jones (Eds.) Magna Carta and New Zealand: History, Politics and Law in Aotearoa (pp. 45-64). Melbourne, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1007/978-3-319-58439-3
  • Williams, D. V. (2017). The Role of Legal History in Developing New Zealand Common Law Following Paki (No 2). New Zealand Law Review, 2016 (4), 755-787. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/34326
  • Williams, D. V. (2014). Application of the Wills Act 1837 to New Zealand: Untidy Legal History. Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, 45 (4), 637-646. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/25483
  • Williams, D. V. (2014). Historians’ context and lawyers’ presentism: Debating historiography or agreeing to differ. New Zealand Journal of History, 48 (2), 136-160. Related URL.
  • Williams, D. V. (2014). Constitutional Traditions in Māori Interactions with the Crown. New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law, 12 (1), 231-260.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/25391
  • Williams, D. V. (2013). Ko Aotearoa Tenei: Law and Policy Affecting Maori Culture and Identity. International Journal of Cultural Property, 20 (03), 311-331. 10.1017/S0940739113000143
  • Williams, D. V. (2013). Law and Authority in colonial Tanganyika. Paper presented at Twenty-First British Legal History Conference: "Law and Authority", University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. 10 July - 13 July 2013. (pp. 26). Related URL.


Contact details

Office hours

12.00-1.00pm daily

Primary office location

1-11 SHORT STREET - Bldg 810
Level 7, Room 737
New Zealand

Web links