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Manufacturing Identity: Pākehā Shipbuilding and the ‘Middle Ground’ in Aotearoa New Zealand

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posted on 2023-01-19, 11:20 authored by Matthew John Carter
Submission note: Thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Department of Archaeology and History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.

This is an archaeological study of the ‘middle ground’, a unique cultural space where Māori (Indigenous New Zealanders) and Pākehā (non-Māori of European origin) became entangled in a relationship where neither could dominate the other and still achieve their own aims. The nature of this complex cultural environment is explored through the lens of material culture manufactured by Pākehā shipwrights at the Deptford Shipbuilding Yard (1826-1830). That these shipwrights were creating the most complex form of material culture at that time means the ships they built are uniquely placed to reveal the underlying motives and strategies of Pākehā society within this middle ground. The Deptford Shipbuilding Yard is one of few surviving archaeological sites from the 1820s in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its excavation presented an unparalleled opportunity to investigate the material record of the middle ground. Using Braudel’s three planes of history, the historical and archaeological record of Deptford was synthesised to reveal the multiple scales through which life on the middle ground was experienced. At the level of the short-term ‘événements’ (events), the Pākehā shipwrights’ day-to-day activities were discovered and contextualised through their creation of the maritime cultural landscapes of maritime needs, materials, economics, technology, tradition and ideology. While the medium-term ‘conjonctures’ (social processes) revealed that shipbuilding at Deptford was influenced by capitalist and imperial ambitions, a range of filters were also uncovered that suppressed and repackaged these forces, influencing how they were experienced on the middle ground. Perhaps most significantly, the long-term ‘mentalitiés’ (worldviews) of the shipwrights were uncovered through the quantifiable differences between their ships and those of their British contemporaries. These new Pākehā-built ships and the artefacts the shipwrights left behind constitute a distinct assemblage of material culture, representing new ‘mentalitiés’ and the birth of the Pākehā identity within the middle ground of Aotearoa New Zealand.


Center or Department

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Department of Archaeology and History.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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