New Zealand History

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The Great War for New Zealand

October 31st, 2017


The Great War for New Zealand tells the story of the defining conflict in New Zealand history. War in the Waikato in 1863-64 shaped the nation in all kinds of ways, setting back Māori and Pākehā relations by several generations, marking an end to any hopes of meaningful partnership and allowing the government to begin to assert the kind of real control over the country that had eluded it since 1840. Spanning nearly two centuries from first contacts in the Waikato in the early nineteenth century through to settlement and apology in 1995, Vincent O’Malley’s book focuses on the human impact of the war, its origins and aftermath.

In this presentation, Vincent O’Malley reflects on the book’s key messages and its reception, just over a year after publication, and following the inaugural national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars. Has the call for New Zealanders to own their history, warts and all, been heeded?

Vincent O’Malley is a founding partner of HistoryWorks, a Wellington consultancy specialising in Treaty of Waitangi research, and is the author of many books on New Zealand history.

Recorded at the National Library of New Zealand, 1 November 2017


Counting redcoats: Who were the imperial soldiers serving in New Zealand in the 1860s?

October 3rd, 2017


In this episode, Charlotte Macdonald and Rebecca Lenihan will discuss the development of a database of men serving in the imperial regiments in New Zealand, the nature of the ‘big data’ generated by the War Office, issues, limitations and possibilities to date, and goals for the database’s continuing development, along with some preliminary analysis. An initial release of the database is planned ahead of Rā Maumahara – the National Day of Commemoration on 28 October.

At least 12,000 imperial soldiers served in New Zealand in the wars of the 1860s. Who were the faces behind the uniforms serving Queen and government in this pivotal moment in New Zealand’s history? Where did the soldiers come from? Where did they go to? Many men had served in the Crimea, India or Australia. Some women and children also travelled with the regiments. What did they bring to New Zealand? And how might the wars on these soils be understood within the broader history of the British Empire in the mid-nineteenth century?

Professor Macdonald is Professor of History at Victoria University of Wellington Te Whare Wānanga o te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Maui.

Dr Lenihan is a post-doctoral fellow at Victoria University of Wellington Te Whare Wānanga o te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Maui, working with Charlotte Macdonald on the Soldiers of Empire project. She is the author of From Alba to Aotearoa: Profiling New Zealand’s Scots 1840-1920 (Otago University Press, 2015).

Recorded at the National Library of New Zealand, 4 October 2017.

The Broken Decade: 1928 - 39 by Malcom McKinnon

September 5th, 2017

Was 1932 a turning point?

In this presentation, Malcolm McKinnon considers the significance of the year 1932 in New Zealand’s history. Keith Sinclair famously described the disturbances of that year and the government’s harsh response as marking New Zealand’s nadir. But the disturbances also prompted the government to abandon its austerity policy, although this was hard to pick at the time, and a political impasse about the way forward stymied recovery

Malcolm is a Wellington historian. His study The Broken Decade: Prosperity, depression and recovery in New Zealand, 1928-39, was published by Otago University Press in 2016.

These public history talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and are recorded monthly, live at the National Library of New Zealand.




Past Caring? Gender, Work and Emotion - A talk by Professor Barbara Brookes

August 2nd, 2017


How do we write a history of caring? This became a central question for Barbara Brookes, Professor of History at the University of Otago in writing 'A History of New Zealand Women'.

There have been major transitions in the locus of care over time. In the early twentieth century, for example, unmarried daughters might be expected to care for their parents in old age. In the mid-twentieth century, married women with children were expected to care for them. The care of children and the elderly, expected in the past to be the responsibility of families and to take place in family homes, or benevolent or church institutions, might now take place in a commercial context. In the twenty-first century, such caring – both for the elderly and the young – may be part of the market economy. This talk will consider the changing landscapes of care and their implications in the twenty-first century.

Recorded at the National Library of New Zealand, 2 August 2017.


Hearth and Home: Reconstructing the Rural Kitchen, c1840–1940’

July 11th, 2017


 How do we capture the flurry of activity, the frenetic movement of people and goods, the routines and ruptures that shape individuals’ everyday experiences and the spaces in which they live? How do we write a history of domestic space, and what are the benefits of such an endeavour for the social or cultural historian? In this talk, Dr Katie Cooper will address these questions offering a peek through the window of New Zealand’s rural kitchens.

Dr Cooper is curator of colonial histories at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Her doctoral research, completed in 2016, examined the history of rural New Zealand to 1940, focusing on rural food ways and the kitchen as a functional and social space in rural homes.

Recorded at the National Library of New Zealand, 1 July 2017. 


The Māori War Effort at Home and Abroad 1917

June 7th, 2017


One hundred years ago in June 1917, the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion was toiling in the war torn environment around Messines in Belgium. The Pioneers had over a year’s experience as a mixed-race battalion (i.e. Maori, Pakeha and Pacific Islanders) and before that as the Maori Contingent and Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment at Gallipoli.

In this talk - Historian Monty Soutar, (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngai Tai) presents a recently delivered paper from the Myriad Faces of War Conference at Te Papa.

It invites the audience to contemplate the development of three processes and their results during 1917, so that they may understand the Maori situation after the First World War. It also includes waiata by Tā Apirana Ngata sung live by Hine Parata Walker, Te Mihinga Tukariri and Te Aniwa Nelson.

Recorded at the National Library of New Zealand, 7 June 2017.



New Zealand’s Rivers: can we learn from history?

May 21st, 2017


The government recently announced a proposal to make more of our rivers ‘swimmable' by 2040 – it has attracted significant controversy, demonstrating the level of concern about the state of our rivers among ordinary New Zealanders. In this talk, Catherine Knight, author of New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history, will provide important context to this debate by exploring some of our complex – and often conflicted – history with rivers since humans first settled in Aotearoa New Zealand. She will argue that knowing our history is an important foundation to forging a better future, both in terms of our environment and our socioeconomic wellbeing.

Catherine is an environmental historian. New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history (Canterbury University Press, 2016) has been longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2017 and was selected as one of the Listener’s Best Books for 2016. Her previous book, Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatu (Dunmore Press, 2014), won the J.M. Sherrard major award for excellence in regional and local history, and Palmerston North Heritage Trust’s inaugural award for the best work of history relating to the Manawatu. Catherine is a policy and communications consultant and lives with her family on a small farmlet in the Manawatu, where they are restoring the totara forest.

Introduction by Chief Historian Neil Atkinson. Recorded at the National Library of New Zealand, 3 April 2017.



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.

KŪPAPA - the bitter legacy of Māori alliances with the Crown

December 13th, 2015

RC176.jpgThe Treaty of Waitangi struck a bargain between two parties - the Crown and Māori. Its promises of security however, were followed from 1845 to 1872 by a series of volatile and bloody conflicts commonly known as the New Zealand Wars. Many people believe that these wars were fought solely between the Crown and Maori, when the reality is Maori aligned with both sides, resulting in three participants from differing viewpoints.

In this episode, lawyer and writer Ron Crosby discusses his most recent book, Kūpapa.

Introduction by Chief Historian Neil Atkinson. Recorded at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 7 October 2015. 

Richard Seddon: King of God’s Own

September 15th, 2015

Seddon_cover.jpgTom Brooking is Professor of History at the University of Otago. He specialises in New Zealand rural and environmental history, political history and historical links between New Zealand and Scotland. He is an author, co author and biographer of numerous books and publications, including the 2014 biography: Richard Seddon King of God's Own.

Although he was no saint Seddon was a far more complex and multi-faceted character than the often rather one-dimensional revisionist portraits within our historical literature. In this presentation, Tom Brooking will attempt to explain how he tried to challenge this increasingly orthodox view by attempting to understand Seddon according to the values of his own times rather than condemning him from a comfortable, presentist distance.

Introduction by Chief Historian Neil Atkinson. Recorded at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2 September 2015.

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