William Pember Reeves published the book that was to be the defining history of New Zealand for nearly half a century: The Long White Cloud - Aotearoa.

Reeves had been a minister in Seddon's Liberal government and his crowning achievement was the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1894 which was the first time any government in the world had introduced compulsory arbitration in industrial disputes.

By the time his book was published he was Agent-General in London and it was aimed at the British market.

True to his political affiliations, he gave an unreserved Liberal interpretation of New Zealand's development. Judging by some of the London reviews, it hit the mark.


The Echo said it was "the life story of a land which for beauty is an earthly paradise, of which the social laws are so near perfection that there are no paupers and no millionaires, where the climate is one of the divinest on earth".

Not everyone was quite so impressed though. The Times thought there was not enough interest in his subject to make Reeves' efforts worthwhile. "The existence of New Zealand has not yet modified the affairs of the world in any very appreciable degree, and the world in general is proportionately indifferent to the history of New Zealand."

But the Herald's London correspondent was not put off, describing The Long White Cloud as "an exceedingly able and useful [book] which will put forcibly into the heads of slow-going Britishers a number of new ideas about New Zealand and its history ... it will always remain an important standard work on the colony".

The book has long been superseded as a standard work but remains an important early attempt to interpret New Zealand history. For that, and his role as a great reformer, William Pember Reeves is our New Zealander of the year for 1898.