Neill Atkinson

Primary fields

Region Wellington
About Me

I have worked for the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage since 2002, and have been Chief Historian since April 2011 (I was previously Acting Chief Historian from September 2008 to June 2009, and again from August 2010 to April 2011). As well as managing the Group's general work programme, I oversee the historical content of the website and manage the NZ History Research Trust Fund Awards in History.

I studied history at the University of Auckland, and moved to Wellington in 1990, working as a researcher and editor for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and then for several years as a contract historian. I now live in Raumati on the Kapiti Coast.

My main areas of interest are the social history of transport (especially railways and seafaring), politics and labour history.

I was a member of PHANZA's executive committee from 2003 to 2010 and PHANZA President from December 2007 to December 2010.

Specialities labour, politics, transport, social
Publications and Research


  • Trainland: How Railways Made New Zealand (Random House, 2007)
  • Miramar Rangers - 100 Years (with Tod Purser, MRAFC, 2007)
  • Hell or High Water: New Zealand Merchant Seafarers Remember the War (HarperCollins, 2005, new edn 2009)
  • Adventures in Democracy: A History of the Vote in New Zealand (Otago University Press, 2003)
  • Rewarding Service: A History of the Government Superannuation Fund (Otago University Press, 2002)
  • Crew Culture: New Zealand Seafarers under Sail and Steam (Te Papa Press, 2001)

Other publications:

  • 'Call of the Beaches: Rail Travel and Holidaymaking in Interwar New Zealand', Journal of Transport History, 33/1 (June 2012)
  • 'George Shannon's Top Hat', entry in Te Hao Nui: The Great Catch, edited by Fiona McKergow and Kerry Taylor (Random House, Auckland, 2011)
  • 'Seafarers', entry in New Zealanders and the Sea (David Bateman/Te Ara, 2009)
  • ‘The Rise and Fall of Happy Homes’, chapter in Frontier of Dreams: The Story of New Zealand, edited by Bronwyn Dalley and Gavin McLean (Hodder Moa, 2005)
  • ‘Parliament and the People: Towards Universal Male Suffrage in Nineteenth Century New Zealand’, in New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law, Vol. 3, No. 1 (June 2005)
  • ‘Against the Tide: the Auckland Seamen's Union 1880–1914', chapter in Trade Unions, Work and Society, edited by Pat Walsh (Dunmore, 1994)
  • Numerous web features on and

Other details

PHANZA Joining Date 1997