The People's University

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From its earliest days in a cold, rented room in a former Christchurch warehouse, the Canterbury Workers’ Educational Association has been a pioneering provider of adult education, enriching, and sometimes even transforming, the lives of thousands of men and women. Through its box and traveling library schemes, inspired by the charismatic James Shelley, it took adult education to nearly every nook and cranny of the Canterbury and Westland provinces from the 1920s. In The People’s University, widely published historian Ian Dougherty tells the fascinating and important story of this resilient association over its first 100 years and of the enthusiastic and committed involvement of students, tutors, volunteers, and staff.


Ian Dougherty has worked as a print and broadcasting journalist and professional historian for nearly four decades. He is the author of more than 20 books on New Zealand history, biography, and culture.