FoTL July Talk – Dr John E Martin – Empire City: The Making of Wellington

Dr John E Martin – Empire City: The Making of Wellington

Venue: Taiwhanga Kawhau Auditorium, lower ground floor, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Thorndon. Entrance on Aitken Street

Dr John E Martin will talk about his book ‘Empire City’: Wellington Becomes the Capital of New Zealand (2022) which covers the period from first encounters between Māori and the New Zealand Company in Te Whanganui-a-Tara in 1839 through to becoming the ‘Empire City; by the 1870s.

The ‘Empire City’ story begins with a small and fragile New Zealand Company pākehā settlement relying only on whaling and racked by earthquakes and shows how a durable economic base was created and how Wellington became a thriving political and commercial centre and the country’s capital.

Contributions from a diverse population: Author Dr John E Martin looks at the contributions made by Māori, the New Zealand Company, early pākehā settlers, merchants, shopkeepers, working people, worthy and less worthy citizens alike, together with a host of institutions and organisations.

This diverse, rich and turbulent story is the key to understanding how Wellington came from such unpromising beginnings to be the capital of New Zealand.

Dr John E Martin  has researched and written about New Zealand history since the 1980s, teaching in universities and employed as an historian in the public sector. He was parliamentary historian in the 2000s and 2010s.

He has published texts on rural and labour history, the history of science and engineering, and social and political history.

His books include The Forgotten Worker (1990), People, Politics and Power Stations (1991 and 1998), Holding the Balance (1996), The House: New Zealand’s House of Representatives,1854–2004 (2004),Parliament’s Library (2008), Honouring the  Contract (2010), Illuminating Our World (2017) and A Colonist’s Gaze (2018). John currently works as a freelance historian.

Please RSVP to

Can’t make it in person? This event will also be delivered using Zoom. You do not need to install the software to attend, you can opt to run Zoom from your browser.

Register if you’d like to join this talk and we’ll send you the link to use on the day.