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City Talks: The Big Smoke


Ben Schrader.

The first City Talks for 2017 features historian Ben Schrader, who discusses New Zealand’s urban history with his talk ‘The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920’.

The pursuit of city life is one of the most important untold stories of New Zealand. Historian Ben Schrader’s The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920 is the first comprehensive history to tell this story, presenting a dynamic and highly illustrated account of city life from 1840 to 1920.

Unlike in Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere, urban history has never been sustained as a distinct field of scholarship in New Zealand. This is surprising, considering that since the early twentieth century most New Zealanders have lived in towns and cities – 86 per cent were urban in 2014. Yet we know surprisingly little about these urban dwellers and the spaces in which they lived.

At a time of national debate over housing and the growth of our cities, Ben Schrader reveals how our urban origins have shaped the people we are today and invites us to consider such questions as: what did cities look like and how did they change; why were women especially drawn to live in cities; in what ways did Māori experience and shape cities; how far was the street a living room and stage for city life; and why did New Zealand so quickly become a nation of townspeople?

Ben Schrader’s talk is supported by Bridget Williams Books. The talk starts at 6pm and will be followed by refreshments. Free entry.


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