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The Governors
New Zealand's Governors and Governors-General

Gavin McLean


The Governors: New Zealand's Governors and Governors-General by Gavin McLean. Otago University PressKey Points

• Crown colony to independent nation with New Zealand's First Citizens
• Thoughtful, provocative and often entertaining text
• About 200 pictures of vice-regal ceremonies, costumes and events
• World's first historical study of a nation's governors


The Book

Grey, Jervois, Fergusson, Bledisloe - their names adorn buildings, streets, entire towns, even hills and rivers. But little has been written about the occupants of Government House. The Governors tracks the evolution of an office that says much about New Zealand's constitutional journey. In Crown colony days, governors ruled personally; with responsible government came uneasy adjustment and, from the late 1880s, a new breed of aristocratic governors who presided ceremonially. Since 1972, all governors-general have been New Zealand residents, two have been female and more recently the office has acquired a new international dimension.

With the job came ceremonial and community roles, which governors performed according to their differing personalities. You will meet the governor who complained about being 'highly paid, well housed and well fed, for performing the functions of a stamp' and another, all monocle, medals and plumed helmet, who spoke Maori.

Review Quotes

'a grand work ... one of the most satisfying books released in New Zealand last year. ... a comprehensive and quite fascinating biographical record. The Governors is a very fine achievement.' – NZ Books September 2007

'this is a very easy-going and entertaining read that will be of interest and relevance to a wider audience than the subject matter might at first suggest ... there is plenty here to stimulate an affectionate reappraisal of this peculiar old institution.' – Wairarapa Times



PART 1 Soldiers and Engineers of Empire (1840-53)
1 Empire's shock-absorbers - Gipps, Hobson, FitzRoy & Grey
2 'Take away the key' - Browne & Grey
3 Humbugs and memorandums - Bowen, Fergusson, Normanby & Robinson
4 'Presiding at charity dinners and entertaining large parties of stupid people' - Gordon & Jervois

PART 2 Vice-regal Ceremonial (1860s-1970s)
5 'He looked at all the men's boots to see that the heels were cleaned' - Governors and ceremonies PART 3 Holiday Jobs or Outdoor Relief for the Aristocracy? (1889-1920)
6 'A governor's life is not a bad one except when he has constitutional questions to debate' - Onslow, Glasgow & Ranfurly
7 Knights of the Round Table - Plunket, Islington & Liverpool

PART 4 A New Imperial System (1917-31)
8 Winds of change or gentle zephyrs?

PART 5 Whisky and Soda Warriors (1920-72)
9 'Soldiers of good fortune' - Jellicoe & Fergusson
10 Nation within empire - Bledisloe
11 Whisky and soda warriors - Galway, Newell & Freyberg
12 The last ten thousand pound Poms - Norrie, Cobham, Fergusson & Porritt

PART 6 Home-Grown (1972-)
13 Kiwis become 'the Queen in drag' - Blundell, Holyoake & Beattie
14 Nominal heads of state? - Reeves, Tizard, Hardie Boys & Cartwright
15 Conclusion



Gavin McLean, Senior Historian at the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, has published widely on New Zealand history and in 2005 co-edited the bestseller Frontier of Dreams.


Publication details

New Zealand, Commonwealth & Constitutional History
hardback, 255 x 190 mm, 416 pages, 16 in colour
ISBN-10 1 877372 25 0, ISBN-13 978 1 877372 25 4, $59.95
Publication Date: October 2006