Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

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Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Author Prof W. H. Oliver (ed.) 1983–1990
Dr Claudia Orange (ed.) 1990–2003
1,239 individual contributors
Country New Zealand
Language English, Maori
Subject New Zealand biography
Genre Encyclopedia
Publisher various
Publication date
Media type 5 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 The dictionary superseded An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand of 1966, which had 900 biographies.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.


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]

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.).

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]

The dictionary has been integrated into Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand as the portion covering people. They are still accepting submissions from the public.[4]

Representative entries

A number of entries were added to make the dictionary more representative of population covered, boosting the numbers of women, Maori, 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.

Barbara Weldon

Weldon (1829–1882) was a prostitute and character. She was born in County Limerick, Ireland in about 1829.[5]

Jessie Finnie

Finnie (c.1822–?) was a prostitute. She was born in Scotland in circa 1822.[6][7]




  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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Clark, Helen (19 February 2002). "Online version of Dictionary of NZ Biography" (Press release). Wellington: New Zealand Government. Retrieved 24 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Phillips, Jock (2003). "The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of History. 37 (1): 80–89. Retrieved 1 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Dictionary of New Zealand Biography biographical database | Ministry for Culture and Heritage". mch.govt.nz. 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011. We are able to add records to the database, and are particularly interested in people who were active between 1961 and 1980 (even if they are still alive). However, anyone who made a contribution to New Zealand society is eligible for inclusion in the database. Although the person you identify may not be selected for an essay in the Dictionary, his or her details will be retained permanently for the future benefit of researchers.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Hutchison, Anne. "Barbara Weldon". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved December 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Glamuzina, Julie. "Jessie Finnie". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved December 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Women, Madness and the Law: A Feminist Reader. Wendy Chan, Dorothy E. Chunn, Robert Menzies. Routledge, 2012. ISBN 9781135311162
  8. "Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards – Literature – Christchurch City Libraries". christchurchcitylibraries.com. 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links