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Edward Gibbon Wakefield


Edward Gibbon Wakefield was born and educated in London. This intelligent, charming and reckless man seemed to have had an adventurous early life, serving as the King’s messenger in the Napoleonic wars.

His ambitions for political power were thwarted by a lack of money which he addressed by eloping with and marrying a young heiress. When she died four years later in childbirth, he decided to abduct another wealthy young woman from her boarding school in Liverpool, with the aim of marrying her. This landed him in Newgate Gaol in 1837 for a three-year term.

It was in gaol that he developed and published his theories, acclaimed at the time, on how colonisation could be better utilised to benefit Britain. He believed land should be purchased from the ‘native possessors’, with a system of reserved lands spread throughout and integrated into the land use of the new settlements. These principles became embodied in the New Zealand Company founded in 1838.

Wakefield didn’t set foot in New Zealand in the years when the Company was establishing new settlements in the Colony, instead appointing his brother William as Principal Agent, and tasking him with implementing his theories. In 1841, he appointed another brother, Arthur, to become the resident agent in the newly formed settlement of Nelson.

It is acknowledged that Edward had a major influence on the colonisation of South Australia and New Zealand.


Edward Gibbon Wakefield

Edward Gibbon Wakefield

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