Friends of the Turnbull Talk – John E Martin, ‘Empire City’: The making of Wellington, 12 July 2023

Wednesday 12 July 2023, 5:30pm to 6:30pm

National Library or Zoom

Dr John E Martin talks about his book ‘Empire City: Wellington Becomes the Capital of New Zealand’ (2022). Hear about first encounters between Māori and the New Zealand Company in 1839 to it becoming the Empire City by the 1870s.

The making of a capital

Empire City: Wellington Becomes the Capital of New Zealand, takes Wellington from the first encounter between Māori and the New Zealand Company in Te Whanganui-a-Tara in 1839 to its becoming the Empire City by the 1870s.

The book tells the story that began with a small and fragile New Zealand Company Pākehā settlement relying only on whaling and racked by earthquakes and shows how a durable economic base was created and how Wellington became a thriving political and commercial centre and the country’s capital.

Contributions from a diverse population

Author Dr John E Martin looks at the contributions made by Māori, the New Zealand Company, early Pākehā settlers, merchants, shopkeepers, working people, worthy and less worthy citizens alike, together with a host of institutions and organisations.

This diverse, rich and turbulent story is the key to understanding how Wellington came from such unpromising beginnings to be the capital of New Zealand.

Dr John E Martin has researched and written about New Zealand history since the 1980s, teaching in universities and employed as an historian in the public sector. He was parliamentary historian in the 2000s and 2010s. He has published texts on rural and labour history, the history of science and engineering, and social and political history. His books include The Forgotten Worker (1990), People, Politics and Power Stations (1991 and 1998), Holding the Balance (1996), The House: New Zealand’s House of Representatives, 1854–2004 (2004), Parliament’s Library (2008), Honouring the Contract (2010), Illuminating Our World (2017) and A Colonist’s Gaze (2018). He currently works as a freelance historian.

More information can be found here.