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The seven servants of Ham: Labourer’s letters from Wellington in the New Zealand Journal, 1840-1845

Several years ago David Fitzpatrick noted that ‘the materials of family history’ had assumed increasing importance in studies of immigration. ‘[O]ld photographs, diaries and letters’, combined with genealogical methods, allow historians to ‘reconstitute the personal stories’ of migrants. A number of New Zealand historians have done just that. Raewyn Dalziel’s research on 1840s immigrants to New Plymouth involved genealogical techniques. Rollo Arnold’s Farthest Promised Land traced ‘ordinary people whose family traditions are rooted in the English villages’. More recently, Jock Phillips and Terry Hearn have drawn on ‘family histories collected by members of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists’. Of the many forms of private documents used in studies of colonial immigration, used letters have perhaps proved of greatest interest. In 1972 Charlotte Erickson’s book of English–American correspondence demonstrated the contribution letters could make to studies of ‘the process of migration and the impact of this experience upon the migrant himself’. Angela McCarthy described letters as a fascinating ‘source for exploring New Zealand history’ and used them to draw attention to ‘the critical importance of kin and neighbourhood connections’ of Irish migrants to New Zealand. Similarly, Frances Porter and Charlotte Macdonald have used extracts from early immigrants’ letters to identify women’s experiences of ‘unsettlement’ and ‘destabilisation’.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Middleton, S. (2010). The seven servants of Ham: Labourers’ letters from Wellington in the New Zealand Journal, 1840-1845. New Zealand Journal of History, 44(1), 54-75.
New Zealand Journal of History
This article has been published in the journal: New Zealand Journal of History. © 2010 New Zealand Journal of History. Used with permission.