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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

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

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 Associate Professor Miranda Johnson

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: Professor Angela Wanhalla and Professor Barbara Brookes

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: Associate Professor Frances Steel and Associate Professor Rachael McLean

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Recently completed

Jeffrey Roger, MA (2022)

Navigating the Currents and Countercurrents of Southern New Zealand’s Human/River Relationship: An Environmental History of Rivers in Otago and Southland, 1890–1920

Jack Brosnahan, MA (2022)

Robert Stout Revisited: The Ideas and Ideals of a Secular Puritan in New Zealand

Pauline Ireland-Kenny, MA (2022)

‘The White Scourge’: the milk supply to Dunedin and its suburbs, 1848–1900

Sarah Christie, PhD (2022)

Women and the New Zealand Office, 1945-1972: Keystrokes to a rewarding life?

Sebastian Hepburn-Roper, PhD (2022)

Firearms on the fringe of the empire: Māori and muskets in the New Zealand maritime world, 1805–1840

Claire Macindoe, PhD (2021)

The Radio Doctor: Broadcasting health into the home. Assessing New Zealand’s changing public health needs through the talks of Dr H. B. Turbott, 1943–1984

Michelle Moffat, PhD (2021)

The Tartan Front: Daily Life in Scotland during the Second World War

Hannah Barlow, MA (2021)

More than a trickle, not yet a flood: Māori Employment and Urban Migration during World War Two

Rachel Tombs, MA (2021)

‘The Most Vital Change’: Feminist Activism and the Criminalisation of Marital rape in 1980s New Zealand

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