NZ in the 19th century

Page 1 – Introduction

New Zealand in the 19th century provides a context within which to prepare for NCEA history as it explores a range of key historical event, or place, of significance to New Zealanders

Three key themes are explored:

Maori-Pakeha relations

The relationship between Maori and Pakeha underpins the entire topic. This relationship involves complicated struggles surrounding land, law and sovereignty as New Zealand was transformed from a Maori world to a European one.

Economic and social change

The economic transformation of New Zealand was achieved via the acquisition of large quantities of Maori land. The political and economic aspirations of the settler population quickly overrode those of Maori.  

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 Maori. The physical and social landscape was transformed as towns and cities developed. Maori, settler Pakeha and new migrants responded to the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

Content coverage

New Zealand in the nineteenth century can be broken down into three broad time periods. This approach makes the process of ‘compare and contrast' easier. Some suggested time periods are:

  • The period up to 1840, sometimes referred to as the 'race relations apprenticeship', in which New Zealand is very much a Maori world.
  • The 1840s through to the 1860s. The Treaty of Waitangi and war dominate this period. The settler population increases and seeks greater political power and more land for settlement.
  • 1870-1900. New Zealand is transformed economically and socially and is now very much a European world.
How to cite this page

'NZ in the 19th century ', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-Dec-2014

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