A searchlight on New Zealand : what the visit of an imperial battlecruiser tells us about the country in 1913 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The experience of the tour [of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand] in both imperial and local New Zealand terms, and the insights this offers into the country’s social and political landscape in 1913, are the subjects of this thesis. Three key questions provide the framework for investigating the environment that provided the backdrop to the tour and which, in large part via the press, both set people’s expectations for encounters with the ship and influenced subsequent narratives. It is instructive first to consider, what did the New Zealand’s tour suggest about the country’s relationships within the empire in 1913? This question offers interesting reflections not only on the imperial mind in 1913 but also on the way New Zealanders perceived themselves and their country, as well as on the attitudes towards New Zealand expressed by representatives of the ‘Mother Country’ and the sibling dominions. To begin building a view of the dominion’s pre-war nature that extends beyond the accepted trope, the thesis asks two questions focused on lived experience. What attitudes did various groups of people adopt towards the visit? What does the visit of the battlecruiser tell us about New Zealand society in 1913? By examining the reactions of four different categories of New Zealanders within the context of their individual ‘worlds’, those with official responsibilities, Maori, children and those with political and/or social sympathies outside the mainstream, it is possible to draw a nuanced picture of who New Zealanders were, what had shaped society as a whole and what influences continued to be felt. In short, the battlecruiser’s visit to New Zealand can play a key role in researchers’ understanding of what imperialism actually meant within the dominion and how it was translated in everyday experience.
The findings of this thesis will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of how the visit and its reception fit into the historiography of New Zealand’s relationship with the British Empire. They will also show that, as a micro study, the 1913 tour provides much material to allow the drawing of a multi-dimensional picture of New Zealanders and New Zealand society prior to the First World War.--From Introduction