Winner of the 2017 W. H. Oliver Prize and the 2017 NZ Heritage Non-fiction Book Award; shortlisted for the General Non-fiction category of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2017!
Unlike in Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere, urban history has never been sustained as a distinct field of scholarship in New Zealand. This is surprising, considering that since the early twentieth century most New Zealanders have lived in towns and cities – 86 per cent were urban in 2014. Yet we know surprisingly little about these urban dwellers and the spaces in which they lived.
The pursuit of city life is one of the most important untold stories of New Zealand. The Big Smoke is the first comprehensive history to tell this story, presenting a dynamic and highly illustrated account of city life from 1840 to 1920.
It explores such questions as: what did cities look like and how did they change; why were women especially drawn to live in cities; in what ways did Māori experience and shape cities; how far was the street a living room and stage for city life; and why did New Zealand so quickly become a nation of townspeople?
At a time of national debate over housing and the growth of our cities, Ben Schrader’s superb new history reveals how our urban origins have shaped the people we are today.
Ben Schrader speaking at the launch of The Big Smoke, held at Unity Books, 16 October 2016.