Uncharted waters? Cultures of sea transport and mobility in New Zealand colonial history



Publication Details

Steel, F. M. 2011, 'Uncharted waters? Cultures of sea transport and mobility in New Zealand colonial history', Journal of New Zealand Studies, no. 12, pp. 137-154.


On a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in 1909, assistant undersecretary of state for the colonies Sir Charles Lucas ventured to suggest 'that in Australia the "bush" must necessarily have a greater effect on the future than in New Zealand, and that in New Zealand the sea will play a greater part in the call of the race than in Australia'. The 'back blocks', he remarked, 'have more especially fashioned Australian life and character'. Although brief and impressionistic, his assessment of the relationship between geography, identity and the course of history still resonates today. The bush is a defining symbol of the Australian imagined community, an enduring source of scholarly and popular inspiration and debate.2 Yet, as the Australian national anthem proclaims, the island continent is also 'girt by sea'. In light of Lucas's predictions about the formative influence of the sea in New Zealand, it is perhaps striking to note that while there have been a number of landmark Australian maritime histories, notably Geoffrey Blainey A Tyranny of Distance (1966), John Bach A Maritime History of Australia (1976), and Frank Broeze An Island Nation (2000), New Zealand boasts no equivalent.

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Journal of New Zealand Studies

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