Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Continental European Assisted Immigrants in 1870s New Zealand

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posted on 2022-05-05, 01:44 authored by Mark Dunick

Approximately 7000 Scandinavians, Germans, Poles and other continental European settlers arrived in New Zealand from 1871 to 1876 as part of the assisted immigration scheme promoted by politician Julius Vogel. The continental Europeans included many family groups and became a small but significant minority among the Pākehā population of nineteenth century New Zealand. Many of these European settlers clustered in rural communities around the country, including Norwegian and Danish communities in Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa, along with German and Polish communities in Canterbury, Otago and Taranaki. Some of these communities are well known and have been studied in isolation, and others have been neglected by historians. This project includes a quantitative study of the continental European migrations of the 1870s and examines key settler communities that continental Europeans, particularly Scandinavians Germans and Poles, formed in nineteenth century New Zealand. It also details the mechanisms of the Vogel assisted immigration scheme by examining voluminous correspondence, reports and memos collected in the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives.

A relational database of ten tables, created for this project, contains information from a range of sources, including passenger records in New Zealand and Europe, New Zealand naturalisation registers and probates. Newspaper information and family histories provided additional biographical details for continental European immigrants. Passenger lists in New Zealand and Hamburg were used to analyse the demographics of the migrants and their diverse European origins. A number of European settler communities were selected, and New Zealand naturalisation records were used to identify and profile European born settlers and their lives in New Zealand. These individuals were matched with passenger records and probate records to build a profile of European settlers in each of these communities.

This study revealed that the European assisted immigrants of the 1870s left from specific regions in their countries of origin, and in many cases specific villages, and local clusters of migration were identified. The examination of a number of the rural communities formed by European migrants in New Zealand revealed that most became small farmers and achieved a modest level of wealth. A close study of the migrants in these clusters revealed many clusters were more diverse than previously thought, with a range of European ethnicities living alongside each other. Despite initial hurdles these European migrants found it easy to integrate into the dominant Pākehā culture of nineteenth century New Zealand, and by the early twentieth century most of the distinctly European communities had dispersed or blended into the wider population


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130705 Understanding New Zealand’s past

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McAloon, Jim; Behrendt, Steve