The genesis of the welfare state : a study of hospitals and charitable aid in New Zealand, 1877-92
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis began as a study of the Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Act of 1885, which provided an interesting example of colonial legislation in the 1880s. It seemed to be a significant piece of legislation and at least one authority considered it ‘… the most important act in the history of New Zealand hospitals.’ Further investigation, however, revealed that there was little background material available on the subject. A cursory study of primary material indicated the possibility of a detailed survey of colonial hospitals and charitable aid. Thus a political investigation expanded into a study of the social, economic and political aspects of hospitals end charitable aid in New Zeeland from 1877 to 1892, with particular emphasis on the crucial period between the abolition of the provinces and the passage of the 1885 Act. The year 1877 was chosen as a starting point because at this time the central government assumed full responsibility for hospitals and charitable aid and brought down the first colonial bill on the subject. The year 1892 was selected as a concluding date because, in his report of that year, the Inspector of hospitals and charitable institutions for the first time felt able to comment extensively on the operation of the Hospitals and Charitable Institutions Act. It could be inferred that he considered the new system to be in reasonably full working order, thus closing a period of foundation. Moreover, it was in the early 1890s that the Parliament and public of New Zealand showed less interest in hospitals and charitable aid as such, than in the previous decade. Because of the nature of the subject, a combination of the thermatic and chronological techniques has been employed. Important source material was found in manuscripts deposited in the National Archives and in the annual hospital reports, parliamentary debates and contemporary newspapers. Secondary sources proved useful for particular aspects of hospitals and charitable aid, or as general background material. Among the difficulties encountered, the paucity of primary material on hospitals prior to 1881 and on charitable aid throughout the whole period, were the most frustrating. Although the primary sources were generally reliable, a few proved to be of suspect quality. An example of this was provided by an 1877 questionnaire, which asked hospitals their average weekly number of inmates. Most hospitals divided their total number of patients by 52 or made an estimate. The return for Napier was extraordinarily high. The reason for this might have eluded a researcher but for the footnote fortunately appended: ‘The number of patients in the institution is about 14 daily which multiplied by 7 will give 98 weekly.’ Instances where statistics should not be taken at face value ere noted in the text end appendices. Some detailed lines of inquiry were restricted by the demands of time and space. The thesis attempts a close study of social welfare in New Zeeland 1877-92, the period immediately preceding the Liberal legislation which put New Zealand in the forefront of developments in the welfare state. It provides a possible basis for further studies in social welfare, particularly in the period 1892-1938. There also appears to be a considerable amount of primary material available for the study of a subject allied to hospitals end charitable aid, the treatment of lunatics in nineteenth century New Zealand. An extensive investigation of friendly societies, too, seems possible.