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The social history of New Zealand's gold rushes, as used by Eleanor Catton in her research for The Luminaries.

The social history of New Zealand's gold rushes, as used by Eleanor Catton in her research for The Luminaries.

A thorough and carefully researched history of the gold rushes in New Zealand. Based on sound scholarship and aimed at the general reader it's accessibly written in a clear, clean and lively style.

The scope is the social history of the goldfields of colonial New Zealand, from the 1850s to the 1870s. The book opens with a survey of worldwide rushes in the late eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries, when for the first time in history a great wheeling movement of gold diggers began to revolve from continent to continent.

The main body of the book looks at all the rushes, large and small, that took place in the colony: Coromandel, Golden Bay, Otago, Marlborough, the West Coast and Thames. The early chapters of the main body survey rushes chronologically; the later chapters look at rushes thematically.

'I owe a debt of gratitude to . . . Stevan Eldred-Grigg's history of the New Zealand gold rushes Diggers, hatters & whores.' Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries


The best and most comprehensive work so far on our goldrushes. That it is written in a forthright and racy style to attract a popular readership … is an added bonus that takes nothing away from its academic authority. It is Stevan Eldred-Grigg’s best historical work to date and is unlikely to be superseded for a long time.

The Press

A compendious, detailed, readable, informative, enjoyable and widely researched book, generously nuanced … in the way he looks at the Chinese contribution, and for solid human experience, there’s hardly a page that doesn’t yield a nugget.

Sunday Star Times

A rumbustious book and a gold rush in itself which captures the speed and social turmoil of an era, and pans vivid, even lurid, detail from historical paydirt. In dispelling common misconceptions about the gold rush, Eldred-Grigg has not only produced a thoroughly enjoyable and informative read, but also gathered together a useful source of historic facts with the index, endnoting and comprehensive bibliography.

NZ Heritage

This brilliant and meticulous history serves to remind us of how important gold rushes were in the formation of our history — as important in their way as the Land Wars that were dominating the North Island at much the same time.


The heart of the book is a richly textured look at the lives of the diggers and those who shared their environment which makes telling use of contemporary newspapers and existing secondary sources in a colourful yet disciplined text.

NZ Doctor

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Formats & editions

  • EBook


    February 28, 2014

    Random House New Zealand

    504 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
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    • Kobo Ebook
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  • Trade Paperback


    August 5, 2011

    Random House NZ

    544 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
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    • Whitcoulls
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    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

Awards and Recognition

  • PANZ Book Design Awards
    Hachette New Zealand Award for Best Non-Illustrated Book

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