Author(s): Stevan Eldrid-Grigg
19th century South Island - land of opportunity, or a province of a rich and powerful elite who carefully nurtured an order of startling social inequality. The author, in his search for the truth behind patterns of colonial life, reveals here the story of the South Island landed gentry - the moneyed aristocrats who built mansions and carried on the snobbish and luxurious traditions of their British counterparts at the cost of their less fortunate brothers. He tells how this elite lived: how they established their wealth, exclusive social circles, carefully-ordered domestic routines, private schools and political and religious interests; how the fabulous profits from huge flocks of sheep were used to reinforce their privileged life-style. While the 'wool kings' prospered, the lives of most ordinary people were uncertain at best, wretched at worst. A long depression caused violent popular agitation against the gentry and was converted into a 'liberal revolution.' But reform faded out in compromise and corruption, leaving the gentry politically humbled - though with much of their property intact. New Zealand had laid the basis of its egalitarian myth, but it was a myth belied by reality. This is not only a colourful, often humorous study of an elite that stamped its image on South Island life, it is also a challening new step in New Zealand social history...
HB with dj, very good copy.