Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

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Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
AuthorProf W. H. Oliver (ed.) 1983–1990
Dr Claudia Orange (ed.) 1990–2003
1,239 individual contributors
CountryNew Zealand
Language English, Māori
SubjectNew Zealand biography
Genre Encyclopedia
Publication date
Media type5 volumes; also available on-line

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB) is an encyclopedia or biographical dictionary containing biographies of over 3,000 deceased New Zealanders. It was first published as a series of print volumes from 1990 to 2000, and then on a website from 2002. The dictionary superseded An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand of 1966, which had 900 biographies. The dictionary is managed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage of the Government of New Zealand. An earlier work of the same name in two volumes, published in 1940 by Guy Scholefield with government assistance, is unrelated.

Encyclopedia type of reference work

An encyclopedia or encyclopædia is a reference work or compendium providing summaries of knowledge from either all branches or from a particular field or discipline. Encyclopedias are divided into articles or entries that are often arranged alphabetically by article name and sometimes by thematic categories. Encyclopedia entries are longer and more detailed than those in most dictionaries. Generally speaking, unlike dictionary entries—which focus on linguistic information about words, such as their etymology, meaning, pronunciation, use, and grammatical forms—encyclopedia articles focus on factual information concerning the subject named in the article's title.

A biographical dictionary is a type of encyclopedic dictionary limited to biographical information. Many attempt to cover the major personalities of a country. Others are specialized, in that they cover important names in a subject field, such as architecture or engineering.



Work on the current version of the DNZB was started in 1983 under the editorship of W. H. Oliver. The first volume covered the period 1769–1869 and was published in 1990. The four subsequent volumes were all edited by Claudia Orange, and they were published in 1993 (1879–1900), 1996 (1901–1920), 1998 (1920–1940), and 2000 (1941–1960). [1]

William Hosking Oliver, commonly known as W. H. Oliver but also known as Bill Oliver, was an eminent New Zealand historian and a poet. From 1983, Oliver led the development of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

Claudia Orange New Zealand historian

Dame Claudia Josepha Orange is a New Zealand historian best known for her 1987 book The Treaty of Waitangi, which won 'Book of the Year' at the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Award in 1988.

These later volumes made a conscious effort to move away from the male and Pākehā-dominated coverage of early works to a more representative view of New Zealand. Women who had done well in male-dominated fields (Sybil Audrey Marie Lupp, Amy Isabella Johnston, Mary Jane Innes, Alice Woodward Horsley, Nora Mary Crawford, etc.) were included, as were Māori, a range of ordinary people (Joseph Zillwood, etc.) and criminals (Edward Raymond Horton, Jessie Finnie, etc.). Many of these people were included because detailed accounts of their lives were readily available, in archives, academic studies and official histories. Others were prolific diarists (Catherine Fulton, Sarah Louise Mathew, Alexander Whisker, James Cox, etc.).

Pākehā is a Māori-language term for New Zealanders of European descent. The term has also recently come to refer inclusively either to fair-skinned persons, or to any non-Māori New Zealander. Papa'a has a similar meaning in Cook Islands Māori.

Amy Isabella Johnston was a New Zealand dentist. She was born in Greymouth, West Coast, New Zealand on 5 April 1872.

Helen Clark as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage launched the online version of the DNZB on 19 February 2002. [2] The online version was first promoted by Judith Tizard, a graduate in history from the University of Auckland, which was supported by Clark, who had also graduated in history from the same university, and endorsed by Michael Cullen, who had been a history lecturer at the University of Otago. [3]

Helen Clark 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand

Helen Elizabeth Clark is a New Zealand politician who served as the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008, and was the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme from 2009 to 2017. She was New Zealand's fifth-longest-serving prime minister, and the second woman to hold that office.

Judith Tizard New Zealand politician

Judith Ngaire Tizard is a former New Zealand politician, and a member of the Labour Party.

University of Auckland university in New Zealand

The University of Auckland is the largest university in New Zealand, located in the country's largest city, Auckland. It is the highest-ranked university in the country, being ranked 85th worldwide in the 2018/19 QS World University Rankings. Established in 1883 as a constituent college of the University of New Zealand, the university is made up of eight faculties; these are spread over six campuses. It has more than 40,000 students, and more than 30,000 "equivalent full-time" students.

The dictionary was integrated into Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand in December 2010. [4] In 2017 the Ministry for Culture and Heritage announced a 'new phase' in the life of the DNZB, with the addition of an essay about Tupaia; this was followed in 2018 by 25 new essays to mark the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand. Subsequent rounds will illuminate the lives of significant and representative people from a cross-section of New Zealand society, with a focus on the decades after 1960. [5] [6] [7]

<i>Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand</i> online encyclopedia

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand is an online encyclopedia established in 2001 by the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The web-based content was developed in stages over the next several years; the first sections were published in 2005, and the last in 2014 marking its completion. Te Ara means "the pathway" in the Māori language, and contains over three million words in articles from over 450 authors. Over 30,000 images and video clips are included from thousands of contributors.

Representative entries

A number of entries were added to make the dictionary more representative of population covered, boosting the numbers of women, Māori, and other minority groups. A number of these are not based on secondary sources, as encyclopaedias traditionally are, but instead on primary sources, because no secondary sources exist for these individuals.[ citation needed ]

Jessie Finnie

Finnie (c.1822?) was a prostitute. She was born in Scotland in circa 1822. [8]

Nielsine Paget

Nielsine Paget (21 July 1858 – 13 July 1932) was a homemaker and community worker in southern Hawke's Bay. [9]

Barbara Weldon

Weldon (18291882) was a prostitute and character. She was born in County Limerick, Ireland in about 1829. [10]



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The Who's Who in New Zealand, originally called the Who's Who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific, is a collection of biographies that was first published in 1908, and the latest version is from 1991. The first edition was edited by the journalist and historian Guy Scholefield in association with Emil Schwabe. This was the first of a series of publications containing biographies compiled and edited by Scholefield, and it formed the basis for his later book Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, published in two volumes in 1940.

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  1. Jones, Lawrence (2001). "Dictionary of New Zealand Biography". In Jolly, Margaretta. Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms. Routledge. p. 274. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  2. Clark, Helen (19 February 2002). "Online version of Dictionary of NZ Biography" (Press release). Wellington: New Zealand Government. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  3. 1 2 Phillips, Jock (2003). "The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of History. 37 (1): 80–89. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  4. "Te Ara – a history – Biographies". Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  5. Shoebridge, Tim (6 November 2017). "The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Rides Again". Te Ara.
  6. Shoebridge, Tim (2018). "25 new stories of trailblazing New Zealand women" . Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  7. Shoebridge, Tim (2018). "'The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Redux' Podcast" . Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  8. Glamuzina, Julie. "Jessie Finnie". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  9. Ropiha, Dorothy. "Nielsine Paget". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  10. Hutchison, Anne. "Barbara Weldon". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  11. "Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards – Literature – Christchurch City Libraries". christchurchcitylibraries.com. 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.