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Ms Rita Ricketts

Member of Common Room

Director Blackwell History and Archive Project

Educated at the universities of London and Lancaster, Rita Ricketts has taught political economy at universities, further education colleges and in schools (United Kingdom and New Zealand). She established her reputation as an academic, writer and journalist while lecturing at Victoria University, Wellington New Zealand. Given open access to NZ’s official papers, she undertook research which took her to New York, Washington, Canberra and European capitals. In an extensive series of interviews, she reached out to those whose roles and work was often forgotten – those in the back row.

While lecturing at the Victoria University, Rita Ricketts was seconded to work for the New Zealand Foreign Office, working directly to the Prime Minister and Minister of Trade. During this time she wrote several official publications, organised conferences and edited resulting papers. Throughout her time in New Zealand, she was a lead features writer for ‘The Dominion’, Wellington’s Daily newspaper, and a member of the steering committee of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs. In recognition of her NZ research and publications, Rita was selected for the European Community Distinguished Visitor’s programme, subsequently being awarded a European Commission Scholarship to the European University in Florence.

Returning to England in 1992 she taught and lectured in post-16 education, as well as writing, editing and examining, and preparing the groundwork for a book (Second Row) on NZ officials and other actors whose stories often remain hidden. A story-teller by instinct, Rita’s NZ research, and publications, consisted of recording, and retelling, the tales of how monumental post-war changes, social, economic and political, affected peoples’ lives. This expertise was seized on by Julian Blackwell, who asked her to curate the Blackwell archive (publishing and bookselling). Since 1999 Rita Ricketts has been directing the Blackwell History and Archive Project in conjunction with the Bodleian Library and Merton College. She published a Blackwell history Adventurers All, 2002. Facilitating creative writing open sessions in Blackwell’s, she recreating the readings that had taken place during the First World War, and started a Fringe at the Oxford Literary Festival.

Since 1999, Rita has set up Blackwell Collections – in both the Bodleian and Merton. Her intention is to prepare this material for digitalisation, making the books, publishing papers, diaries, memoirs, letters and other documents and accessible to scholars in the fields of book, cultural and literary history and life writing. At the same she forged a much-needed link between the Bodleian, Blackwell’s and the University of Oxford Outreach programme. As a visiting academic she has been a member of Common Room at Merton College and Kellogg, she continued her research into those writers, readers and book people often missed in the annals of official history. Her research has been published in the US and she has continued to write, more occasionally, for The New Zealand International Review. The Bodleian published her latest book, Scholars, Poets and Radicals, in March 2015. Rita is also a Bodleian Blackwell Fellow.

Her writing nods to poetry and has radical undertones. Students and colleagues, in Britain, New Zealand and at the European University in Italy, her six children and an ever-increasing brood of grand children, inform it.