Journal Article

"The land with the midas touch": British perceptions of New Zealand, 1935-1979


For many British commentators, especially on the social democratic left, mid-century New Zealand, or at least its ‘settler’ population, was a society with much to admire – particularly in the field of social policy. British Labour Party leaders looked enviously at, for example, the Dominion’s 1938 Social Security Act, legislation which significantly added to the provision of state-backed health care and social security for New Zealanders. This was seen as building on earlier reforms which had established New Zealand’s reputation as a ‘social laboratory’, a key component of the Dominion’s sense of identity. In addition, the very fact of its Commonwealth membership made the potential transfer of its practices to the ‘motherland’ all the more viable. New Zealand was thus a key participant in the transnational exchange of ideas about social welfare which characterized the era. But after the Second World War doubts began to spread, both inside and outside of New Zealand. These were focused on, for instance, a purportedly ossified political system and concerns over the absence of a broadly-based intellectual culture. From being a ‘social laboratory’ which could be fruitfully emulated, New Zealand became an example of a society in which a lack of vision and foresight could prove highly problematic.

Attached files


O'Hara, Glen
Stewart, John

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of History, Philosophy and Culture


Year of publication: 2018
Date of RADAR deposit: 2018-04-26

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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