The evolution of emigrant travel to New Zealand in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

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By the mid-nineteenth century North America’s virtual monopoly of emigration from Britain and Ireland was being eroded by antipodean competition, initially from Australia, and after 1840 from the new Crown colony of New Zealand. Recruitment agents commended the ‘Britain of the South’ as an Eden where familiarity blended with exoticism, an idyllic location whose climate and culture compared favourably with the aridity and lawlessness of its neighbour across the Tasman Sea. Yet the geographical remoteness which New Zealand shared with Australia could be a significant deterrent to emigrants who feared the discomforts – and even dangers – of a long voyage to the other side of the world. The purpose of this paper is to explore the actions and sentiments of emigrants from Britain and Ireland who undertook the journey to New Zealand. Why did they opt for such a distant destination? Was promotional rhetoric borne out in the realities of the transition? Can we identify persistent threads in the attitudes and practices of passengers and providers alike over more than a century, or did technological advances totally transform the business of the voyage? How distinctive were the experiences of emigrants who travelled to New Zealand? Issues of continuity, change and distinctiveness are addressed with particular reference to the question of whether the journey was an ordeal or an adventure, using the lens of three chronologically structured sub-themes: preparing to leave and embarking; a core section dealing with life at sea; and some brief comments on arrival and its aftermath.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalJournal for Maritime Research
Issue number1
Early online date9 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • New Zealand
  • emigration
  • voyage
  • embarkation
  • shipwreck
  • illness
  • death


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