The State of Not in Narrow Seas (March 2014)

<>The following is extracted from a funding application. It says about where the book was in early March 2014.


Keywords: Political Economy & History;


Not in Narrow Seas, as its title, suggests is an ambitious history of New Zealand . It is written from an economic perspective.


As such it covers many issues which are often neglected by most general histories. These include:

– the interactions between the environment and the economy (and society generally); the book starts 600 million years ago at the geological foundation of New Zealand;

– the offshore origins of New Zealand’s peoples and the baggage they brought with them;

– there are seven chapters on the Maori plus further material in numerous other chapters;

– there is a whole chapter on the development of the  Pacific Islands (after the proto-Maori left)  in preparation for the account of the Pasifika coming to New Zealand;

– there are specific chapters on the non-market (household) economy in preparation for an account of mothers entering the earning labour force (one of the radical changes in the 1970s);

– there are five chapters on the evolution of the welfare state;

– the book pays attention to external events and globalisation;

– it could be argued this is the first ‘MMP history’ of New Zealand because it looks at how people voted as well as electoral seats won. (If this seems odd, it is rarely mentioned that when Coates lost power to Ward in 1928 his party won far more votes but fewer seats);

– this is not yet another history of the ‘long pink cloud’. It takes a critical view of the more extreme versions from this perspective, in part because it puts a lot more weight on the farm sector as a progressive force (albeit with its own kind of progressiveness);

– it synthesises the rise of Rogernomics with the events before, showing both the continuities and the disruptions;

– while not a cultural history, it integrates culture and intellectual activity into the narrative.


Inevitably the book traverses disciplines outside the writer’s expertise such as biology, archaeology and anthropology in the opening chapters . Where that has been necessary the writer has followed closely the conventional wisdom in the discipline and the text has been checked by experts. (In fact all the chapters – including the more economic ones – have been checked by experts.)  Often though, economic issues are drawn out of the narrative in these areas which extend the perspective of the conventional wisdom.


As, indeed, does the entire book. The economics approach is more similar to the nineteenth century perspective of ‘political economy’, which does not accept rigid boundaries between economics, political studies and sociology. So the book traverses virtually all the social sciences, insofar as they shed light on the development of New Zealand.


The current state of the book (to the end of February 2014) is summarised in at the end of this section. The work program is as follows:


The first 44 chapters (from 600m BP to 1984) are ‘bus’ ready; that is, if the author fell under a bus they could be published with very little extra work. Even so, there is a need to revise the chapters. A main reason for doing so is new material. For instance, Apirana Ngata has a central role in Chapter 29 on Maori development in the first half of the twentieth century. Oliver Sutherland’s since published biography, Paikea, of his father, Ivan, who was a close friend and colleague of Ngata gives further insights into the central issues of the chapter and may involve significant revision. This is but one example of scholarly work published since the chapters were written (including my own work on the Great War economy) which needs to be incorporated (buses willing). There may also be some opportunities for reducing the length and also some restructuring may be necessary.


I currently plan 18 chapters (plus an epilogue) for the events after 1984 taking the narrative up to the present. Three chapters of this section are in early draft. There is a continuity between the chapters before and after Chapter 45 with the central thesis that tardiness over post-war modernisation before 1984 led to the accelerated change in the subsequent decade. The last eight chapters (covering the period from the mid-1990s) will explore to what extent there are continuities and discontinuities with past; suppose the pre-1984 modernisation had been more vigorous and the post-1984 modernisation more moderate.


These two tasks will take at least two full-time years. With such a commitment the book would be published at the end of 2016 or early 2017. The Michael King Writers’ Fellowship would enable the author to achieve this timetable.


(It is proposed to publish the appendices separately on the web. This will be after the final version of the book is submitted to the publisher. It is thought that funding can be seperately arranged for the electronic-publication expenses from alternative sources.)


CONTENTS  numbers represent words of written chapters.



1          The Economy Before Mankind                                  5650

2          The Polynesian Economy Before Commerce 4400

3          The First Settlers                                                         4850

4          Maori Before the Market                                            6000

5          The Maori Meets the Market                                      5100

6          The International Context                                           4800

7          The Early Quarry                                                        4100



8          Governing Begins                                                       4700

9          The First Towns                                                          4200

10        The War Economy                                                      4500

11        The Gold Economy                                                     4200

12        The Wool Economy                                                    5000

13        Maori After the Wars                                                  5000

14        The Vogel boom of the 1870s                                    5200

15        The Long Depression                                                  6350

16        Auckland at the End of the Nineteenth Century       5650



17        The Take-off                                                               5900

18        Industry and Labour                                                   6100

19        Why come to New Zealand?                                      4300

20        The Rise of the Dairy Industry                                   4350

21        War, War, War                                                            6450

22        Interwar Transformation                                             5450

23        The Economics of the Great Depression                    5950

24        The Social Impact of the Great Depression                5450

25        The Rise of Labour                                                     6100

26        Development of Social Security to 1972                    7050

27        Development of Health, Education and Housing to 1972  8000

28        The Household Sector                                                4550

29        The Maori Revival: 1900-1950                                   6400

30        The Second World War                                              7050



31        Post-War New Zealand                                              4550

32        The New Politics                                                         5200

33        The National Boom                                                     6750

34        The End of the Golden Wether                                  4950

35        The Kirk Years                                                            5700



36        Second Great Maori Migration                                   4950

37        The Development of Polynesia                                   5950

38        Diversity and Choice                                                  5350

39        The Rise of the Earning Mother                                 5650

40        The Transfer State                                                       7100



41        The Politics of Muldoon                                             4600

42        Economic Management Fails                                      5500

43        Diversification                                                            5900

44        The End of an Era                                                       4500



45        The Rise of Rogernomics                                            5200

46        More Market                                                               5750

47        Commercialising Trading Enterprises            4750

48        Redisorganising Government

49        Populace Democracy

50        Inequality Rises

51        The Attack on the Welfare State

52        Education, Culture and Intellectual Activity

53        The Share Market Collapses

54        The End of Rogernomics


55        Globalisation

56        Business Settles In

57        Maori Corporations and the Other

58        The Fifth Labour Government

59        Business Rules; OKey.

60        Regionalisation and Centralism

61        Quarrying and Sustainability

62        Where in the World?



I. The Course of Population                            3850

II. The Course of Prices                                  4200

III. Measuring Economic Activity                  2100

IV. The Course of Output: 1860-1939           3250

V. The Course of Output: 1932-1955 2700

VI. The Course of Output: 1955-                   3400

VII. The Structure of the Economy                4050

VIII. The Course of Productivity                   1450

IX. Patterns of Government Spending           4850

X. Transfers                                                    5650

XI. Debt and Deficits                                     3300


Asked to explain why it was innovative, I wrote:


The book will challenge much of the standard account of the historical development in a constructive way by introducing new insights, new ways to look at the past. Listing them all would amount to writing the book itself. The following are a few highlights.


Perhaps most important the book will offer an economic framework for historians and other social scientists and a historical framework for economists and other social scientists. For instance, almost all histories have no sense of the variations in prosperity such as the existence of the Long Depression in the nineteenth century followed by the Liberal Boom (nor when the boom finished).Yet the different periods evidently impacted on political and social outcomes.


Another key theme of the book is the impact of the environment. Standard histories are unaware of the loss of soil fertility (until the heavy application of fertilizer from the mid-1920s). Few would be aware that nineteenth-century development was greatly influenced by the impact of the Taupo volcanic explosion in about 220 CE.


There is no detailed history of Maori economic (and therefore social) development from the time of arrival (and before, if the Pacific Island phase can be treated as a part of it) through to modern times, with the urbanisation of Maori, treaty settlements, and the rise of the modern Maori economy. When completed, the total material on Maori will come to about 40,000 words, a small book in its own right.


Another innovation is attention to the history of the non-market household economy (and hence of unpaid work of women). This is vital to an understanding the rise of women’s employment in the 1970s and the way which the welfare state works.


A final example of how innovative the book is its approach to the ‘Rogernomics Revolution’ of the 1980s. Ralf Dahrendorf identified

… two quite different versions of dramatic change. One is deep change, the transformation of core structures of a society which in the nature of the case takes time; the other is quick change, notably the circulation of those at the top within days or months by highly visible, often violent action. The first might be called social revolution, the second political revolution. The Industrial Revolution was in this sense social, the French Revolution was political.

While public commentary tends to treat the 1980s as a political revolution in fact it came on top of – indeed was a response to – a social revolution.


I am confident that the publication of the book will give general historians the confidence to incorporate the economy into their studies in a way which has been notably lacking in the past.