In the early 1840s Edward Gibbon Wakefield's New Zealand Company recruited “emigrants of the labouring classes” promising: “every one of them who is industrious and thrifty, may be sure to become not merely an owner of land, but also in his turn an employer of hired labourers, a master of servants.” Letters sent “Home” to Ham (a village in Surrey, UK) from Wellington between 1841‐1844, by a group of labouring families, project textual personae consistent with this liberal image. The purpose of this paper is to explore educational processes involved in the production of these colonial identities.
The letters are read in relation to archival resources: the curriculum of the National School and alternative educational models in Ham, records of schools provided in Wellington, and pedagogical intentions signalled in the records of the New Zealand Company.
Arguing that migration resulted in a radical change in the subjectivity of these labouring class families, this paper contrasts the curricula of the “National School” attended by these children in Ham with the more secular offerings in Wellington. Their “National School” taught Ham's lower orders to accept their God‐given “stations” in life. Radical critique was suppressed. In Wellington the first schools, such as the Mechanics’ Institute, were non‐denominational, prioritising practical knowledge. Foundations for a secular society based on liberal values were laid.
There is little educational research on how participation in the Wakefield scheme transformed those who, in rural England, were required to remain subservient members of the power orders, into the enterprising independent subjects required in the new colony.
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