Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Postgraduate research




PhD students


Hugh Bowron BA (Cant), MA (Cant), Dip Theol (Leeds), MTheol (Otago)

The Parish History of St Peter’s Caversham as an extension of the Caversham Project.

The thesis intends to extend and develop the Caversham project by using one enduring institution in the suburb’s life as a mine shaft to further explore the shape and contour of life in South Dunedin over the passage of time. A key theme will be an examination of why a particular form Anglican exotique known as Anglo-Catholicism took root in New Zealand’s first advanced industrial suburb, and how this style of Anglican identity became a defining characteristic of the parish. Its origins, contents and effects on parish life will be accounted for. The thesis will also explore the relationship of this particular Dunedin Anglican parish to its diocese and its city. It aspires to lift the writing of parish histories to a new level above the high standard set by Dr Marie Peters of the Canterbury history department with her 1986 Christchurch – St Michaels: A Study in Anglicanism in New Zealand.


Supervisors: Associate Professor John Stenhouse and Associate Professor Alex Trapeznik

Sarah Christie BA (Hons), MA (Canterbury)

Women and Work: Clerical Workers and Gender Change in Post-War New Zealand, 1945-1972

This thesis seeks to add to the knowledge of both labour history and women’s history within New Zealand through an investigation of women’s working lives in the post-war period. The thirty years following World War II saw a number of significant changes in New Zealand women’s relationships with the labour market. This research will use the example of clerical workers to uncover how women experienced these changes and the ways in which change both drew from, and impacted on, gender roles in New Zealand. This dissertation project has received funding from the New Horizons for Women Trust’s Ria McBride Research Award.


Supervisors: Professor Mark Seymour and Associate Professor Alex Trapeznik

Patrick Coleman BA (Hons), MA (Cant), DipTESOL (Trinity)

Loyalism, Fraternalism and Religious Dissent: New Zealand Orangeism, 1840-2000

Orangeism is an Irish founded semi-secret fraternal society that spread throughout the British Empire in the early to mid-19th century. Its mixture of militant Reformation style Protestantism and fierce loyalty to the British Crown drew like-minded members from a wide range of Christian denominations and ethnic backgrounds. This dissertation will make use of public and private archival holdings of annual proceedings, minute books, including material culture such as banners, regalia, certificates to determine for New Zealand Orangeism factors contributing to its spread and decline; migration patterns and ethnic composition; sectarian involvement; material culture; role of women; extent of transnationalism and networking with worldwide Orangeism.


Supervisors: Professor Angela McCarthy and Associate Professor Alex Trapeznik

Erin Driessen, BA (Hons, First Class) (Otago)

Earthworks and Road Trips: Early American Land Art and the Counterculture, 1960-1977

This thesis explores connections between the sensibilities and actions of American Earthworks artists (in particular Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, Walter De Maria, and Dennis Oppenheim) and various counterculture communities (such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, and the Diggers of San Francisco) active in the United States in the late sixties to early seventies. The original contribution to knowledge this research makes is to explore a cultural component of Land art in America that has not been closely examined in its historiography. Earthworks artists and counterculture groups adopted similar attitudes, practices, and spaces. The parallels evident in their choices demonstrate a shared ideological and aesthetic language of escape and exploration, destruction and creation, and free forms. Against a backdrop of space exploration, the new generation would create alternative worlds for art and living, microcosms that represented a wider cultural shift from modern to postmodern.


Supervisors: Dr Miranda Johnson and Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla

Genzhong He, BA (Gannan Normal University), MA (Fuzhou University)

Translating George Washington: The Imagination and Construction of the Modern Nation-State in the Late Qing and Early Republican China (1840–1919)

The direct encounter of China, Japan and the West in the 19th century brought about a new perception of the world in China. Focusing on nation, nationalism and sovereign state, the thesis asks how Chinese intellectuals accommodated to the Western notion of the nation-state and reconciled the conflicts between the two different worldviews and thus endeavoured to construct for China a modern nation-state in the Late Qing and Early Republican era. In addressing the research questions, this thesis examines translations of the life and significance of George Washington done by Chinese intellectuals and foreign missionaries between 1840 and 1919. Through uncovering the intellectual implications of the interpretative translations, I will attempt to determine how Chinese values interacted with western notions and how the interactions made a difference in the process of constructing China’s modern nation-state.

This project is funded by a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.


Supervisors: Professor Brian Moloughney and Professor Takashi Shogimen

Sebastian Hepurn-Roper, BA, BA (Hons) (Otago)

Trading Taonga: New Zealand Firearms Trade in a Pacific Context, 1807 to 1857

An examination of cross-cultural firearms trade between Māori and Pākehā in pre-colonial, and early colonial New Zealand. The focus of this thesis will be on the economic and pratical mechanisms that introduced firearms to New Zealand such as whalers and flax traders, and the genesis of resultant economies that these trade vectors caused in Māori society. By collating fragmentary archival material such as ship's logs, missionary writings, and Australian port documentation it is hoped that a data set will be generated that can provide a more substantive picture of these early trade networks. This study is thus intended to be an economic and social history rather than a military one, and will attempt to illustrate the role of New Zealand on the peripheray of empire, and as part of a broader economy of exploitation and colonisation in the wider Pacific.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Professor Tony Ballantyne

Evgeniya Kryssova BA (Hons), MA with Distinction (VUW)

The Evolving Role of Christianity in New Zealand Domestic Politics During the 1950s and 60s

The purpose of this study is to investigate the role Christianity played in the New Zealand governance during the 1950s and '60s by looking at both denominational and broadly Christian influences on the Governmental policies as well as Governments' use of Christianity in relation to the public. The 1950s and '60s are often cited as New Zealand’s Golden Age, characterised by the post-war economic boom. Alongside material prosperity, however, there was a change in New Zealand’s Christianity. Both a prominent contemporary historian, Keith Sinclair, and New Zealand’s best-known theologian, Lloyd Geering, noted a decline in the popularity of religion in New Zealand during these decades. Census data from the 1970s shows that New Zealanders were ‘abandoning’ Christianity following the Golden Age. This project proposes to study the above two phenomena in conjunction, by putting the concept of secularisation into New Zealand political context.

This research is funded by a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.


Supervisors: Associate Professor John Stenhouse and Dr Miranda Johnson

Claire Macindoe, BA (Hons) (Otago)

The Doctor is Now In (Your Living Room): Dr H. B. Turbott and the Promotion of Public Health through Radio, 1943-1984

Radio creates a background noise to our lives, often limited to public spaces, worksites and the solitude of our vehicles, however radio once played a central role in the lives of New Zealand citizens, reflected in urban and rural populations alike. My thesis explores the use of radio to promote messages concerning public health, specifically focusing on Dr H. B. Turbott's health broadcasts between 1943-1984. From these talks we can follow overarching themes in how health information was communicated to the masses, and follow shifts in both understandings of health and social issues. Topics of discussion reflect concerns of the time, from the inception of these talks onwards. Initially implemented to address issues of health relevant to wartime, during a period when the radio was a key domestic item, the continuation and longevity of Dr Turbott's talks on health reflects New Zealand's unique relationship with radio.


Supervisors: Professor Barbara Brookes and Professor Patricia Priest

Paulien Martens, BA, BA (Hons) (Canterbury)

'Our boys will do better here no doubt': Parenthood in Canterbury and Otago, 1840-1880

The microcosm of the family can reveal how a society projects and creates ideals around religion, gender, race and class. Drawing on personal correspondence, shipboard diaries and journals, photographs and objects, this project analyses the variety of personal experiences of parenthood in Canterbury and Otago from 1840-1880. It asks how parenthood was a gendered experience, what roles religious frameworks and class played in parenting practices, and in what ways Pākehā colonisation shaped Māori family life. Particular attention is paid to the sentiments, identities, language and symbolism associated with parenting during this time. With a focus on the daily lives of Pākehā and Māori families this project emphasises the nuances of the lived experiences of parents in nineteenth-century Canterbury and Otago.

This research is funded by a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Professor Barbara Brookes

Michelle Moffat, BA (Hons), GradDipArts (Canterbury)

The Tartan Front: Public Opinion and Morale in Scotland, 1939-1945

The British home front during World War Two is a period of history that has truly captured attention. For over seventy years, historians have debated notions of ‘The People’s War’, ‘blitz spirit’, and the morale of British on the home front. However, along the way, “British” has become synonymous with “English” and little attention has been given to the experiences of those in regional areas. This thesis seeks to address this oversight by exploring the Scottish home front. What was the Scottish civilian’s experience of war? How did Scottish public opinion differ from that of the English? Were there differences in wartime features such as rationing, propaganda, evacuation, or air raids? Alongside these questions, this thesis will look at the state of Scottish morale and how this was affected by war conditions unique to Scotland.

This project is funded by the Bamforth Postgraduate Scholarship.


Supervisors: Professor Angela McCarthy and Professor Mark Seymour

Steven R Talley BA (magna cum laude) (Princeton), Diploma for Graduates (Otago), MA (with distinction) (Otago)

Coconuts as Catalyst: The Historical Impact of Coconut Commodification on a New Hebridean Community

My research will investigate how the commodification of coconuts (the copra trade) affected the social structures and relations of a Vanuatu indigenous community during the Condominium of the New Hebrides (1906-1980). If one thinks of coconut commodification as a stone (or a coconut) metaphorically dropped into the middle of a particular society, as into a pond, how did that impact alter social relations as it rippled through the local economy? How did it “make history,” in the sense that it was the catalyst for social change and innovation that otherwise might not have happened?

Supervisors: Professor Judith Bennett and Associate Professor John Stenhouse


Michelle Willyams, BA Hons I, BMus, MA with Distinction (Otago)

Exploring Mental Distress related to Childbirth in New Zealand, 1860 – 1980.

This doctorate explores the intersection of gender, disease and class through an examination of New Zealand women’s experiences of mental distress related to childbirth. My project asks whether women in New Zealand have had similar or varied treatment between 1860 and up to 1980 and what factors eventually led medical and social spheres, by the 1980s, to accept ‘Postnatal Depression’ as the main diagnostic tool to identify and label symptoms of mental distress exhibited by some women after childbirth. A three-fold focus on the processes of defining the ‘disease’, the experiences of the patient once diagnosis was made, and the often confused dialogues among the emerging medical professionals to construct and agree on the symptoms and treatment of women provides the framework to examine societal expectations of motherhood. Mental Asylum and Hospital records, Plunket, Department of Health publications and Preventive Medicine Dissertations inform this thesis, providing answers to how cases of mental distress related to childbirth were investigated, managed, and experienced in New Zealand, enlightening our understanding of the changing roles and experiences of New Zealand women between the nineteenth and twentieth century.

This research is funded by a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.


Supervisors: Dr Frances Steel and Associate Professor Rachael McLean

^ Top of page

Master of Arts (MA) students

Hannah Barlow, BA(Hons) (Otago)

The Role of Māori Urban Migration in the World War Two Home Front

This study is focused on the intersection between Māori participation in the home front and Māori urban migration. This is analysed through 3 case studies: market gardens, freezing works, and the public service. World War Two is often cited as where Māori urban migration began, but there has been little in the way of detailed analyses of the processes unique to the war years that are the origin of this migration. With this thesis I seek to make clear just how the role of Māori urban migration bolstered the home front war effort, and to show that Māori urban migration is not only relevant to the 1950's and beyond.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Professor Mark Seymour

Jack Brosnahan BA (Otago), BA(Hons) (Otago)

The Freethinker and the Feminist: Race, Gender and Religion in the Lives of Robert and Anna Stout

This thesis will examine the lives and work of two enormously influential New Zealand public figures: Robert Stout, and his wife Anna Paterson Stout. Both impressive, outspoken and controversial individuals, the Stouts were undeniably pioneers as early campaigners for women’s suffrage. The thesis will survey their many achievements through a critical lens, exploring those aspects of their work and legacies which appear less noble in the light of present-day sensibilities, for example Robert Stout’s opposition to Chinese and Irish Catholic immigration and his support for eugenic ideas. It will also investigate how the influence of the Scottish Presbyterian culture in which both were brought up informed their political and philosophical beliefs and undergirded their exploits, even when these were supposedly “secular” and non-religious.


Supervisors: Associate Professor John Stenhouse and Professor Brian Moloughney

Jeffrey Roger, BA (USP), BA(Hons) (Otago)

Rivers in Otago and Southland from 1890 to 1920

An inquiry into the ideas and attitudes towards rivers in Southern New Zealand. Exploring the debates between environmental conservation and environmental exploitation of river through both government and public discourses. How environmental viewpoints of New Zealand's rivers developed and interacted over the 30 years between 1890 and 1920. I consider the Liberal and Reform Governments' policies, public awareness through newspapers, and other sources of knowledge creation and implementation in the region, with national and global comparisons for greater context. Issues covered include goldmining, mining, silting, irrigation, agriculture, natural resource use, abuse, and management, conservation ethics, riparian rights and environmental law.


Supervisors: Professor Tom Brooking and Professor Judith A Bennett

Sam Stevens, BA(Hons) Diploma of Teaching (Otago)

A study of the aesthetics of light and light theories in the Middle Ages and its impact on the development of the Gothic style and selected art works.

The aim of this thesis is to discuss the importance of light to the Medieval aesthetic and art forms. The development of theological and scientific theories of light in the Middle Ages will first be considered by analysing the theological works of the Pseudo Dionysus and Medieval theorists such as St. Thomas Aquinas and the scientific works of Pecham, Grosseteste and Bacon.
The second part will look to show the theological and scientific aspects of light theories in practise from selected art works of the Middle Ages. The development of the Gothic style and the great cathedrals and their use of stained glass will form the basis for this discussion. The architectural program of Abbot Suger (Saint Denis), Chartres and Lincoln Cathedrals, and King Louis’ Sainte Chapelle will be some of the examples of art work used.

Supervisors: Dr Judith Collard and Professor Takashi Shogimen

Rachel Tombs, BA(Hons) (Otago)

An End to Spousal Immunity: Rape Law Reform in 1980s New Zealand

Prior to the Rape Law Reform Bill (No.2) in 1985 men had been exempt from the legal consequences of marital rape in New Zealand. This thesis examines ‘spousal immunity’ in New Zealand from its codification in the 1890s to repeal in the 1980s. Particular interest is paid to the role of feminist activism as a catalyst for the criminalisation of marital rape. Sources include public submissions to the Rape Law Reform Bills (No.1 and No.2), feminist magazines, parliamentary debates and feminist legal scholarship. This research seeks to challenge the silence surrounding rape and sexual violence in New Zealand history.

This research was funded by a University of Otago Masters Scholarship.


Supervisors: Associate Professor Angela Wanhalla and Professor Sonja Tiernan