Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB) is an encyclopedia or biographical dictionary containing biographies of over 3,000 deceased New Zealanders. It was first published as a series of print volumes from 1990 to 2000, and then on a website from 2002. The dictionary superseded An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand of 1966, which had 900 biographies. The dictionary is managed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage of the Government of New Zealand. An earlier work of the same name in two volumes, published in 1940 by Guy Scholefield with government assistance, is unrelated.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
AuthorProf W. H. Oliver (ed.) 1983–1990
Dr Claudia Orange (ed.) 1990–2003
1,239 individual contributors
CountryNew Zealand
LanguageEnglish, Māori
SubjectNew Zealand biography
Publication date
Media type5 volumes; also available on-line


Work on the current version of the DNZB was started in 1983 under the editorship of W. H. Oliver. The first volume covered the period 1769–1869 and was published in 1990. The four subsequent volumes were all edited by Claudia Orange, and they were published in 1993 (1879–1900), 1996 (1901–1920), 1998 (1920–1940), and 2000 (1941–1960).[1]

These later volumes made a conscious effort to move away from the male and Pākehā-dominated coverage of early works to a more representative view of New Zealand. Women who had done well in male-dominated fields (Sybil Audrey Marie Lupp, Amy Isabella Johnston, Mary Jane Innes, Alice Woodward Horsley, Nora Mary Crawford, etc.) were included, as were Māori, a range of ordinary people (Joseph Zillwood, etc.) and criminals (Edward Raymond Horton, Jessie Finnie, etc.). Many of these people were included because detailed accounts of their lives were readily available, in archives, academic studies and official histories. Others were prolific diarists (Catherine Fulton, Sarah Louise Mathew, Alexander Whisker, James Cox, etc.).

Helen Clark as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage launched the online version of the DNZB on 19 February 2002.[2] The online version was first promoted by Judith Tizard, a graduate in history from the University of Auckland, which was supported by Clark, who had also graduated in history from the same university, and endorsed by Michael Cullen, who had been a history lecturer at the University of Otago.[3]

The dictionary was integrated into Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand in December 2010.[4] In 2017 the Ministry for Culture and Heritage announced a 'new phase' in the life of the DNZB, with the addition of an essay about Tupaia; this was followed in 2018 by 25 new essays to mark the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand. Subsequent rounds will illuminate the lives of significant and representative people from a cross-section of New Zealand society, with a focus on the decades after 1960.[5][6][7]

Representative entries

A number of entries were added to make the dictionary more representative of population covered, boosting the numbers of women, Māori, and other minority groups. A number of these are not based on secondary sources, as encyclopaedias traditionally are, but instead on primary sources, because no secondary sources exist for these individuals.

Jessie Finnie

Finnie (c.1822–?) was a prostitute. She was born in Scotland in circa 1822.[8]

Nielsine Paget

Nielsine Paget (21 July 1858 – 13 July 1932) was a homemaker and community worker in southern Hawke's Bay.[9]

Barbara Weldon

Weldon (1829–1882) was a prostitute and character. She was born in County Limerick, Ireland in about 1829.[10]



  • Scholefield, Guy, ed. (1940). A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography : A–L (PDF). I. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  • Scholefield, Guy, ed. (1940). A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography : M–Addenda (PDF). II. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  • Oliver, W. H., ed. (1990). The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. I. Wellington: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 004641052X.
  • Orange, Claudia, ed. (1993). The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. II. Wellington: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0908912498.
  • Orange, Claudia, ed. (1996). The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. III. Wellington: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1869402006.
  • Orange, Claudia, ed. (1998). The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. IV. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books. ISBN 1869402030.
  • Orange, Claudia, ed. (2000). The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. V. Auckland: Auckland University Press. ISBN 1869402243.


  1. ^ Jones, Lawrence (2001). "Dictionary of New Zealand Biography". In Jolly, Margaretta. Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms. Routledge. p. 274. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  2. ^ Clark, Helen (19 February 2002). "Online version of Dictionary of NZ Biography" (Press release). Wellington: New Zealand Government. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b Phillips, Jock (2003). "The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of History. 37 (1): 80–89. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  4. ^ "Te Ara – a history – Biographies". Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  5. ^ Shoebridge, Tim (6 November 2017). "The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Rides Again". Te Ara.
  6. ^ Shoebridge, Tim (2018). "25 new stories of trailblazing New Zealand women". Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  7. ^ Shoebridge, Tim (2018). "'The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Redux' Podcast". Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  8. ^ Glamuzina, Julie. "Jessie Finnie". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  9. ^ Ropiha, Dorothy. "Nielsine Paget". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  10. ^ Hutchison, Anne. "Barbara Weldon". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards – Literature – Christchurch City Libraries". christchurchcitylibraries.com. 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.

External links

1807 in New Zealand

There is a new sealing rush to the Bounty and Auckland Islands. Sealing also continues at Bass Strait and the Antipodes Islands. Foveaux Strait is a frequent stop for these sealing ships. Whaling continues off the east coast of the North Island. Ships are now visiting the Bay of Islands on a reasonably regular basis. The first reports about the poor behaviour of visiting ship's crew are sent to the Church Missionary Society in London.

1814 in New Zealand

With the purchase of a vessel by Samuel Marsden for use by the Church Missionary Society at the beginning of the year the establishment of a mission in New Zealand is at last possible. After a preliminary scouting trip Marsden and the missionaries arrive at the end of the year and the first mission is begun at Rangihoua Bay in the Bay of Islands.

A small number of sealing vessels are operating/visiting Campbell, Macquarie and Auckland Islands. At least one visits the Bay of Islands while other also make provisioning stops in Foveaux Strait. Whaling ships and ships collecting timber from Tahiti and other islands in the Pacific also visit the Bay of Islands.

1815 in New Zealand

The first Christian mission is established at Rangihoua. The Hansen family, the first non-missionary family also settles there. Samuel Marsden explores the Hauraki Gulf and travels to within sight of Tauranga Harbour. The first book in Māori is published in Sydney. The first European is born in New Zealand.

Visits by sealing ships begin to decline; they are now sealing almost exclusively at the Macquarie and Campbell Islands and travel either via the east coast of New Zealand (calling at the Bay of Islands en route for refreshments) or via the southern fjords/Foveaux Strait/Stewart Island (stopping for refreshments in either/both directions).

1819 in New Zealand

The following lists events that happened during 1819 in New Zealand.

1820 in New Zealand

The following lists events that happened during 1820 in New Zealand.

1821 in New Zealand

The following lists events that happened during 1821 in New Zealand.

1822 in New Zealand

The following lists events that happened during 1822 in New Zealand.

1823 in New Zealand

The following lists events that happened during 1823 in New Zealand.

1933 New Zealand Labour Party leadership election

The New Zealand Labour Party leadership election, 1933 was held on 12 October 1933 to choose the third leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. The election was won by Auckland West MP and incumbent deputy-leader Michael Joseph Savage.

Barry Gustafson

Barry Selwyn Gustafson (born 1938) is a New Zealand political scientist and historian, and a leading political biographer. He served for nearly four decades as Professor of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, and as Acting Director of the New Zealand Asia Institute from 2004 to 2006. He has contested various general elections, first for the Labour Party and later for the National Party, coming second each time.

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch

The Canterbury Museum is a museum located in the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand, in the city's Cultural Precinct. The museum was established in 1867 with Julius von Haast – whose collection formed its core – as its first director. The building is registered as a "Historic Place – Category I " by Heritage New Zealand.

German New Zealanders

German New Zealanders (German: Deutsch-Neuseeländer) are New Zealand residents of ethnic German ancestry. The German community constitute one of the largest European ethnic groups in New Zealand, numbering 12,810 in the 2013 census.

Guy Scholefield

Guy Hardy Scholefield (17 June 1877 – 19 July 1963) was a New Zealand journalist, historian, archivist, librarian and editor, known primarily as the compiler of the 1940 version of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. He was born in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand on 17 June 1877, and died in Wellington on 19 July 1963.Educated at Tokomairiro District High School, he was the second chief parliamentary librarian and succeeded Charles Wilson. Together with Emil Schwabe, he edited the 1908 edition of Who's who in New Zealand and the western Pacific.In the 1919 King's Birthday Honours, Scholefield was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He was appointed as a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 1948 New Year Honours, in recognition of his services as parliamentary librarian and national archivist.

Women's suffrage in New Zealand

Women's suffrage in New Zealand was an important political issue in the late nineteenth century. In early colonial New Zealand, as in European societies, women were excluded from any involvement in politics. Public opinion began to change in the latter half of the nineteenth century, however, and after years of effort by women's suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard, New Zealand became the first self-governing colony in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.The Electoral Bill granting women the franchise was given Royal Assent by Governor Lord Glasgow on 19 September 1893. Women voted for the first time in the election held on 28 November 1893 (elections for the Māori electorates were held on 20 December). Also in 1893, Elizabeth Yates became Mayor of Onehunga, the first time such a post had been held by a woman anywhere in the British Empire.In the 21st century there are more eligible women voters than men and women also vote at a higher rate than men. However, a higher percentage of women than men non voters perceive a barrier that prevents them from voting.

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