Writer, historian and biographer, the late Michael King, contributed enormously to New Zealanders’ understanding of themselves and their history. Over three decades he wrote or edited over 30 books, most of them on New Zealand history or biography. His Penguin History of New Zealand, became a publishing sensation, selling like no other in New Zealand history.
King has won a wide range of awards for his books, journalism and television work. In 1976 he received the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship. Te Puea received the New Zealand Book Award for Non-Fiction at the 1978 New Zealand Book Awards. He was twice awarded first place at the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards: first in 1984 for Maori: A Photographic and Social History, and second in 1990 for Moriori. King's biography of Janet Frame, Wrestling with the Angel (2000), won the Montana Medal for Nonfiction, the Montana Award for History and Biography (which he shared with Gregory O'Brien), and the Readers' Choice Award at the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. It also won the 2001 Book Data New Zealand Booksellers’ Choice Award. In 2003 the was awarded the inaugural Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement, The Herald named him New Zealander of the Year in 2003.
King was a contributor to the prestigious Oxford History of New Zealand and wrote for all five volumes of The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. He taught or held fellowships at seven universities in New Zealand and other countries, including Georgetown University in Washington DC, where he was Visiting Professor of New Zealand Studies. He was tragically killed in a car accident in 2004.