New Zealand History

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Reflections on the Big Smoke

April 18th, 2017


In this presentation Ben Schrader offers some reflections on the writing of his recent book The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities, 1840-1920 (Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2016).

Why did he write the book and how did he go about it?  What were the challenges and rewards of writing a broad story in a narrowly researched field?  He then reveals some of the most important findings from the project and suggests ways they increase our understanding of New Zealand’s past.  Finally, he ponders how the work might shape future research. Might, for example, his focus on the lived experience of city dwellers suggest social history is making a long-awaited comeback?

Recorded at the National Library of New Zealand, 5 April 2017.

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