Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (1.01 MB)

Soldiers & Colonists: Imperial Soldiers as Settlers in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand

Download (1.01 MB)
Version 2 2023-09-26, 23:56
Version 1 2021-11-22, 21:50
posted on 2023-09-26, 23:56 authored by McLellan, John

The approximately 18,000 imperial troops who arrived in New Zealand with the British regiments between 1840 and 1870 as garrison and combat troops, did not do so by choice. However, for the more than 3,600 non-commissioned officers and rank and file soldiers who subsequently discharged from the army in New Zealand, and the unknown but significant number of officers who retired in the colony, it was their decision to stay and build civilian lives as soldier settlers in the colony. This thesis investigates three key themes in the histories of soldiers who became settlers: land, familial relationships, and livelihood. In doing so, the study develops an important area of settler colonialism in New Zealand history. Discussion covers the period from the first arrival of soldiers in the 1840s through to the early twentieth century – incorporating the span of the soldier settlers’ lifetimes. The study focuses on selected aspects of the history of nineteenth-century war and settlement.  Land is examined through analysis of government statutes and reports, reminiscences, letters, and newspapers, the thesis showing how and why soldier settlers were assisted on to confiscated and alienated Māori land under the Waste Lands and New Zealand Settlement Acts. Attention is also paid to documenting the soldier settlers’ experiences of this process and its problems. Further, it discusses some of the New Zealand settlements in which military land grants were concentrated. It also situates such military settlement practices in the context of the wider British Empire.  The place of women, children, and the regimental family in the soldier settlers’ New Zealand lives is also considered. This history is explored through journals, reminiscences, biography and newspapers, and contextualised via imperial and military histories. How and where men from the emphatically male sphere of the British Army met and married women during service in New Zealand is examined, as are the contexts in which they lived their married lives. Also discussed are the contrasting military and colonial policies towards women and marriage, and how these were experienced by soldier settlers and their families.  Lastly, the livelihood of soldier settlers is explored – the thesis investigating what sort of civilian lives soldier settlers experienced and how they made a living for themselves and their families. Utilising newspapers, reminiscences, biography, and government records the diversity of work army veterans undertook in the colony is uncovered. Notable trends include continued military-style roles and community leadership. The failed farming enterprise is also emphasised. Going further, it offers analysis of the later years of life and the different experiences of soldier settlers in their twilight years, particularly for those with and without family networks in the colony. The thesis challenges the separation between ‘war’ and ‘settlement’ by focusing on a group whose history spanned both sides of the nineteenth-century world of colony and empire.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Macdonald, Charlotte