The Ideal Society and its Enemies: The Foundations of Modern New Zealand Society 1850–1900

Miles Fairburn

‘This is an exciting, and at times, brilliant book in which Fairburn sets out to explore what made colonial New Zealand unique.’
– Erik Olssen, Dominion Sunday Times

The Ideal Society and its Enemies is a challenging and provocative study of the nature of settler society in nineteenth-century New Zealand, in which Fairburn focuses attention on the lives of the common people and presents a rigorous and original description of the place and time. His views differ radically from those of previous historians. His work explores the characteristics of New Zealand's settler society, the types of social organisation and culture that the European colonists created in a remote and unfamiliar land, as well as the problems facing the new society. Fairburn argues that in the process by which the settlers coped with these problems and adapted social beliefs and attitudes to handle them, the foundations of modern New Zealand society were laid. This important book will have a major impact on how we understand New Zealand's past and is a significant contribution to the study of new societies.


Emeritus Professor Miles Fairburn taught at Canterbury University and Victoria University of Wellington. He has written numerous articles and books on New Zealand social history.


March 1989, 210 x 140 mm, 316 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869400286