Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Wairarapa Wealthy in Public and Private, 1876–1913

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posted on 2021-11-15, 14:06 authored by Cruden, Joseph

Social histories of New Zealand’s colonial wealthy usually focus on those who left personal papers, ignoring those who left no major records. What is more, histories of the wealthy have tended to focus on the South Island—there is no reason to assume that the North Island rich were the same. This thesis attempts to address both these imbalances by approaching wealthy individuals in colonial Wairarapa systematically—locating all testators who died between 1876 and 1913, leaving estates worth £10,000 or more. This process produces a cohort of sixty-five, mainly farmers and mostly of middle-class origins. Testamentary records demonstrate that in private, the rich stayed true to their origins by splitting their wealth evenly. Other forms of biographical information, most notably newspaper obituaries and Cyclopedia entries, show that public life was different. Here, the rich departed from their origins; whereas community involvement and charitable works had been an important aspect of middle-class identity in Britain, the colonial experience forced wealthy capitalists to redefine public status. Throughout, this thesis demonstrates the importance of regional social histories in New Zealand by thinking ‘under as well as across the nation’—extending South Island scholarship of the wealthy into the North Island and examining the manifestation of large historical forces close-up in communities of individuals.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McAloon, Jim