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Edward Gibbon Wakefield letters.

Identifier: MSS-Archives-A-55

Scope and Contents

The collection of thirty-eight letters, mostly from Wakefield to Lord Lyttelton, concerns the colonisation of New Zealand and the activities of the Canterbury Association, of which Lord Lyttelton was chairman.

The letters were transcribed in 1945 from copies of the originals which had been made some years earlier by Mr. A.H. Johnstone. The location of the originals at the time of copying was unknown, but they are in all probability the letters purchased from Mr. K.A. Webster by the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1964.

The collection is housed in a single folder. It includes an introduction and contents list.


  • 1850 - 1853


Conditions Governing Access

Not restricted.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Gibbon Wakefield was born in London in 1796, and was educated at Westminster School and in Edinburgh. He served three years in prison for the abduction of an heiress, during which time he developed his theories of colonisation and wrote a book expounding them. He believed that land in the colonies should be sold at a fixed price rather than granted or sold very cheaply, and that the proceeds should be used to finance the emigration of labourers, especially young people, of both sexes in equal numbers. These ideas gained in popularity, and in 1829 Wakefield formed the Colonisation Society, which sent settlers to the Swan River in Australia. This scheme was not entirely successful, and Wakefield turned his attention to New Zealand.

The New Zealand Association was organised in 1837, and became a joint-stock company three years later. Wakefield was disappointed, however, when the British Government refused to entrust the entire business of colonisation in New Zealand to the Company.

He then concentrated on the founding of an Anglican settlement, and in 1848 the Canterbury Association was formed under the leadership of John Robert Godley and Lord Lyttelton.

Wakefield emigrated to New Zealand in 1853, and the next year was elected to the House of Representatives and the Wellington Provincial Council, but retired from both in 1855. He died in Wellington in 1862.


0.01 metres (1 folder)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of University of Canterbury Library, 1955.

Existence and Location of Copies

Original transcripts held by the University of Canterbury Library.

Inventory of the Edward Gibbon Wakefield letters, 1850-1853.
Mrs R. Chapman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, University of Auckland Repository

5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand