'Sports and other signs of civilisation' in colonial Canterbury, 1850-1890
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores the development of sport in Canterbury between 1850 and 1890 and the significance of a number of factors, including class, in that process. Each province in New Zealand developed in relative isolation and evolved its own distinct identity prior to the 1880s. Consequently, this study examines the evolution of sport within a single province, rather than throughout the entire colony. Several arguments will be advanced in the dissertation. Evidence shows that sport was an activity in which a high proportion of the population of the province were involved on some basis. Although this characteristic was apparent in almost every form of sporting endeavour, it was particularly noticeable in rowing and certain organisational forms of athletics. Various factors also facilitated the involvement, to a limited extent, of Maori and the female section of the settler population in these two pursuits. The development of sport was effected by improvements in the infrastructure of the province and may, in turn, have exerted some influence over the manner in which that infrastructure evolved. The steady expansion of the system of railways enabled growing numbers of people to travel around Canterbury to sporting events, and this increasing volume of passenger traffic apparently proved sufficiently lucrative to induce changes in the way local railways were managed. Moreover, contrary to the opinions which dominate the historiography, sport in Canterbury was characterised by a high degree of organisation in matters of finance and management. One particularly significant point, which will be constantly reiterated throughout the thesis, is that sport in Canterbury was dominated until the mid-1880s by the rural and urban elites and by the middling classes. The working classes participated in sporting activities which took the form of annual public festivities from the late 1860s and, to an increasing extent after 1880, in those conducted through formally constituted clubs, particularly rowing and rugby football. The last, but by no means least, of the arguments advanced in this thesis is that sport was instrumental in fostering a sense of communal identity in Canterbury. The primary vehicle for the creation of this sentiment was rugby football. Sport, in almost all of its manifestations and at all stages of its development, was a social activity of the greatest significance in Canterbury between 1850 and 1890.