Before arriving in Canberra in 1950 as the foundation Professor of Pacific History at the Australian National University, J.W. (Jim) Davidson (1915-1973) was an Oxbridge don and author of a small book on The Northern Rhodesian Legislative Council (1948). A New Zealander by birth and upbringing, Davidson arrived at Cambridge in late 1938 on a Strathcona Scholarship and embarked on a PhD dissertation at St John's College, becoming a Fellow in 1945 and from 1 January 1947, a University Lecturer in Colonial Studies. While the formal details are easily established, little of substance is known about Davidson's activities at Cambridge. As Davidson's biographer-to-be, I was fortunate to receive a letter from P.E.H. Hair, one of Davidson's undergraduate students at Cambridge, who learned of my work from a footnote in one of my journal articles. Hair put me in contact with a fellow Davidson student, George Shepperson, which led to another fruitful correspondence.
Davidson is well known as the founding father of modern Pacific Islands historiography, and perhaps even better known as a Constitutional Advisor and Consultant to various Pacific territories approaching independence or self-government. These aspects of his life have been amply documented, not least by Davidson himself. A largely unknown aspect of Davidson's career is his undergraduate teaching: after all, he spent most of his working life at an institution devoted to research and postgraduate supervision, unfettered by the demands of undergraduate teaching. With this in mind, and with their permission, it was decided to publish the recollections of Paul Hair and George Shepperson of Jim Davidson as their History tutor at John's.