In search of the New Zealand middle class

Professor Jim McAloon looks at the New Zealand middle class as it was around 1900.

Inaugural lecture—Professor Jim McAloon

October 2019

Sixty years ago, Keith Sinclair published his landmark book, A History of New Zealand. Sinclair reflected the optimism of the times, writing that if New Zealand was not a classless society, “it must be more nearly classless, however, than any other society in the world.”

Earlier this year, the cover of a national weekly newspaper asked, “How tough is it for the middle class in New Zealand?” Other headlines wondered whether the middle class is thriving or insecure.

But who are, or were, the middle class in New Zealand? More has been written about the very wealthy and the working class than about the middle class.

Drawing on biographical sources, deceased estates, and family papers, Professor Jim McAloon looks at the New Zealand middle class as it was around 1900. He examines where they came from, how they made their livelihoods, what were their organisations and networks, and what they owned.

This is Professor McAloon’s inaugural lecture as Professor of History at Victoria University of Wellington. Our public lecture series gives you the opportunity to engage with the latest thinking on the world’s major issues.

To stay informed of upcoming public lecture at Victoria University of Wellington, sign up to the public lecture mailing list.