The Forgotten Worker

The Forgotten Worker

The Rural Wage Earner in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand

As New Zealand's agricultural industry developed in the twentieth century, the rural worker – shearer, labourer, musterer – began to disappear from public view. In this fascinating study, John Martin uncovers the lives of these 'forgotten workers', describing their working lives, relationships with employers, living conditions and expectations.

Their experiences are brought to life in their own words and a remarkable range of photographs, painting a vivid portrait of a changing world. The Forgotten Worker is also an account of New Zealand's changing rural world, altered by the development of the family farm, the growth of dairying and increased mechanisation.

Available in ebook formats from booksellers and using the ‘Buy’ button on this page. For more information on these purchase options please visit our Sales FAQs page or contact us.

Table of contents


1. Wool and wheat: Landholding and the developing rural economy
2. A 'Glorious country for a labouring man'? The labour market
3. A 'nomadic race': The rural workforce and the itinerant experience
4. Men, sheep and dogs: Work on the stations
5. 'Knights of the blade': Shearing
6. 'A farm is in every sense a manufactory': Farm and estate
7. 'God made the tucker, but the devil made the cooks': Living conditions
8. War in the sheds: Conflict and worker Organisation


Print publication:
Ebook publication: Dec 2015
Pages: 228
ISBN: 9780046582609
ISTC: A022012000021372
DOI: 10.7810/9780046582609

Search inside


"This is an important book for New Zealand history in that it documents a group who have been largely ignored because they didn't easily fit into an ideology which stressed the family farm and access to land. It also points to just how important the rural working class were both in the foundation of New Zealand trade unions and New Zealand Labour." Alun Howkins, History Workshop Journal, No 32, Autumn 1991, pp.204-5