NZ in the 19th century

Page 1 – Introduction

New Zealand in the 19th century provides a context within which to explore a range of key historical events and places of significance to New Zealand and New Zealanders. It is a key period in understanding contemporary New Zealand and provides a meaningful context for any study of colonialism and its impact. As a broad survey three key themes are explored:

1. Māori-Pākehā relations

The relationship between Māori and Pākehā is crucial to in understanding the history of that time as well as modern New Zealand. In the period up to 1840, sometimes referred to as the 'race relations apprenticeship', New Zealand was very much a Māori world. The relationship became increasingly complex as struggles emerged surrounding land, law and sovereignty. The Treaty of Waitangi quickly gave way to war and conflict, hastening New Zealand's transformation from a Māori world to a Pākehā one.

2. Economic and social change

The economic, social and political transformation of New Zealand was achieved via the acquisition of large quantities of Māori land. From the 1840s through to the 1860s the political and economic aspirations of the settler population quickly overrode those of Māori . The rapid growth of the settler population saw greater demands for political power and more land for settlement.

3. Society and attitudes

The migration to New Zealand of tens of thousands of settlers in the 19th century had a significant impact on their lives and those of Māori. In the period from 1870-1900 the physical, economic and social landscape was transformed as towns and cities developed. Māori, settler Pākehā and other new migrants responded to the challenges of a rapidly changing world in a variety of ways.

How to cite this page

'NZ in the 19th century ', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 29-Oct-2018

Community contributions

No comments have been posted about NZ in the 19th century

What do you know?