Time and the Making of New Zealand:A Theme in the Development of a Settler Society, 1840 to 1868
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The thesis seeks to reveal, through the use of numerous case studies, the timekeeping processes that helped to make New Zealand. Whilst the period under review covers primarily the period 1840 to 1868 there is also a discussion of the emergence of clock time in thirteenth century Britain and Europe and its development through to the late nineteenth century. This is because the settlers‟ apprehension of time and their use of clocks and watches had evolved over the preceding centuries. The importance of reliable time was recognised by the Church from the medieval period but as ownership of public and private clocks proliferated the decentralisation of clock time commenced. Clock time commanded the lives of people and imprinted itself through the inculcation of such notions as punctuality and productivity. Better clocks brought a new emphasis to workplace efficiency underpinning the belief that time was money and facilitated the efficient coordination of Land, Labour and Capital. The discovery of New Zealand required timekeeping at sea. The achievements of James Cook, underpinned by improved chronometers, facilitated the large-scale British colonisation of New Zealand and seldom brought respite from the rule of time. Once on land, the settlers looked to establish a temporal order similar to Britain. The challenge to establish and disseminate the „true‟ local time within communities led to the setting up of observatories and the use of public clocks, time ball stations, bells and guns to signal clock time. The myriad of local times was not a problem at first but once the telegraph began to link communities they hindered its optimal efficiency. This led to the introduction of „telegraph time‟ in early 1868, dual time systems in communities using the telegraph, and public debate. Whilst most provinces accepted the new clock time, Otago saw it as an affront to their community‟s autonomy and identity. The province challenged the imposition of telegraph time, instigated a Parliamentary debate, and argued for the introduction of a common New Zealand time. Parliament‟s 1868 decision was a triumph for convenience and economic rationality over tradition and local identity. New Zealand was the first country entirely to abandon local times and regulate its time in relation to Greenwich mean time.