Classroom ideas - missionaries

This page broadly outlines how the Missionaries feature could be used by teachers and learners in social studies and history. It is part of a section on pre-1840 contact and when used in conjunction with other features from this category will provide users with a concise summary of the pre-1840 period. This category examines the European exploration of New Zealand, contact between Maori and those who sought to profit from involvement with New Zealand, and the humanitarian interest taken by the Christian missionaries. All of this set the context for the British decision to formally enter into a treaty with Maori in 1840.

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The missionaries

Christianity came to New Zealand via Australia. As the 'agents of virtue in a world of vice', these men and women went to extraordinary lengths to bring Christianity and 'civilisation' to Maori. This was a frontier society and Maori needed protection. While the early years were largely unsuccessful in terms of saving souls, they provided points of contact for trade and new ideas, and ultimately, these had a profound impact on many Maori communities. The introduction of the written word and the development of a written Maori language represented massive changes.

This feature is of great value to teachers and students studying at a variety of levels.

Social studies

'Culture and heritage' and 'Time, continuity and change' are two strands that are supported by this feature. The feature helps set the context for any study of the Treaty of Waitangi or early contact in New Zealand as it examines the impact of the spread of new ideas, the effects of cultural interaction and the impact of contact on people's lives. How was New Zealand society as a whole shaped by the actions of missionaries?

NCEA Level 3 history

The role of the missionaries in the early contact period and their involvement in the calls for formal British intervention during the 1830s are key aspects of the broad survey of New Zealand in the 19th century.

The missionaries clearly paved the way for European colonisation and were instrumental in Britain's decision to offer Maori a treaty in 1840. The Treaty of Waitangi challenged Maori in terms of their newly acquired skills of literacy. It also opened the floodgates for European settlement and changed the face of New Zealand in a way unimaginable a generation before. This feature provides students with a context in which to prepare for the following achievement standards:

  • 3.4: Examine a significant decision made by people in history, in an essay.
  • 3.5: Examine a significant historical situation in the context of change, in an essay.
  • 3.3: There are numerous excellent historical sources relating to missionaries and their activities that can be used as practice for final assessment.
For more detail of specific activities relating to this period go to Pre-1840 contact activities – NCEA Level 3 history.

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How to cite this page

'Classroom ideas - missionaries', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/classroom-ideas-missionaries, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2016

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