Settler fathers: Paulien Petronella Martens, Founding Fathers: Fatherhood, family and aspiration in colonial Dunedin, PhD dissertation, University of Otago, 2023


Abstract: Taking the Wakefieldian colonial project in Otago as the starting point, this thesis examines fatherhood in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Dunedin, linking masculinity and family to the colonial project in Aotearoa. Histories of masculinity and fatherhood have burgeoned since the 1980s, with important studies on topics such as class, war and Empire. Yet the intersection between masculinity, family and settler colonialism has not received much attention to date, especially regarding personal experiences of fatherhood. In particular, the roles and experiences of fathers in nineteenth and early twentieth-century New Zealand remain largely unexplored. This research seeks to bridge this gap by asking in what ways fathers were connected to their children, families and wider kin in a colonial society, and how religion, cultural background and class impacted on fathering styles.The thesis is comprised of seven thematic chapters structured around key features of the colonial society of Dunedin and wider Otago. The five core chapters focus on religion, welfare, mobility, business and education, which are bookended by two chapters that focus on links between fatherhood and the colonial project of Otago, with the final chapter reflecting on the broader legacies of colonial fathers in a particular place. Throughout the thesis, attention is given to changes in Dunedin over time, and how these are reflected in the experiences of fathers and families.Based on a rich array of family correspondence, business archives, and published sources related to a select number of Dunedin families, this thesis argues that examining personal experiences of fatherhood enriches our understanding of family, relationships, kin networks and settler colonialism in New Zealand. It concludes that aspiration was a key feature of fatherhood, with fathers invested in their children’s prospects in various ways. This could take the form of breadwinning, but also included moral and religious guidance, education, and children’s involvement in the family business. Extracts from family correspondence are evidence of the close bonds between children and their fathers in Dunedin at this time. Family aspirations were not always met due to the vicissitudes of colonial life, but fathers were anxious to direct their offspring to reap the rewards that settlement could bring.

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