New Zealanders have long been avid readers, but up until the mid-20th century most of the literature they consumed was imported from Britain. Historian and poet Keith Sinclair identified the 1950s as the time 'when the New Zealand intellect and imagination came alive'. This flowering of creative and critical talent was not sudden, but the climax of a process that had begun at least two decades before.
By the 1930s a new breed of New Zealand writers was emerging, assisted by the growth of universities and small publishing enterprises. The New Zealand centennial in 1940 provided a further boost to the local literary scene, and later that decade a state Literary Fund was established. By the 1950s there was a wider range of outlets for creative writing, including the influential magazine Landfall. New voices in poetry and drama were generating heated debate over identity and politics, while writers of novels, short stories, children's and popular fiction were also finding new audiences.