New Zealand and the Sea

New Zealand and the Sea

Historical Perspectives

As a group of islands in the far south-west Pacific Ocean, New Zealand has a history that is steeped in the sea. Its people have encountered the sea in many different ways: along the coast, in port, on ships, beneath the waves, behind a camera, and in the realm of the imagination. While New Zealanders have continually altered their marine environments, the ocean, too, has influenced their lives.

A multi-disciplinary work encompassing history, marine science, archaeology and visual culture, New Zealand and the Sea explores New Zealand’s varied relationship with the sea, challenging the conventional view that history unfolds on land. Leading and emerging scholars highlight the dynamic, ocean-centred history of these islands and their inhabitants, offering fascinating new perspectives on New Zealand’s pasts.

‘The ocean has profoundly shaped culture across this narrow archipelago . . . The meeting of land and sea is central in historical accounts of Polynesian discovery and colonisation; European exploratory voyaging; sealing, whaling and the littoral communities that supported these plural occupations; and the mass migrant passage from Britain.’ – Frances Steel


Atholl Anderson, Tony Ballantyne, Julie Benjamin, Douglas Booth, Chris Brickell, Peter Gilderdale, David Haines, Susann Liebich, Alison MacDiarmid, Ben Maddison, Angela McCarthy, Grace Millar, Damon Salesa, Jonathan Scott, Frances Steel, Michael J. Stevens, Jonathan West

Print publication:
Ebook publication: Nov 2018
Pages: 384
RRP: $59.99
ISBN: 9780947518707
DOI: 10.7810/9780947518707

Named one of Auckland City Libraries Top 10 nonfiction books!

‘Reframing the history of nineteenth-century New Zealand around the ocean and the maritime connections that were central to migration, warfare, economic life, and the development of communities, opens out and transforms our vision of the colonial past.’ – Tony Ballantyne

‘The sea can both connect and divide, integrate and segregate, thereby mirroring life on land.’ – Angela McCarthy

‘It is a strange fact that New Zealand can be literally all at sea in the Pacific Ocean, and yet pay that ocean, and neighbours and relations within it, so little attention.’ – Damon Salesa

‘We are tāngata whenua. But many of us also cling to the coast, to islands and to the sea. We are also tāngata moana, and always have been.’ – Michael J. Stevens


'New Zealand and the sea - Frances Steel', Standing Room Only, RNZ, 11 November 2018.

Bruce Munro, 'Not a Sure Thing', Otago Daily Times, 5 November 2018.


'An accessible, academic publication by BWB, New Zealand and the Sea, edited by Frances Steel, has contributions by 17 New Zealanders with expertise ranging from history and marine science to archaeology and visual media.' - Bruce Munro, Otago Daily Times