Matters of the Heart: A History of Interracial Marriage in New Zealand

Angela Wanhalla

Author: Angela Wanhalla
Format: Paperback, Ebook
Pages: 312
Published: September 2013
Availability: Out of print / out of stock
Specs: 24.0cm x 17.0cm
ISBN: 9781869407315

Available in Ebook

A history of the intimate relations between Māori and Pākehā, and the intersections of public policy and private life.

Philip Soutar died at Ypres in 1917. Before becoming a soldier, Soutar’s life revolved around his farm at Whakatāne, where he lived with his Māori wife Kathleen Pine in an ‘as-you-please marriage, uncelebrated by a clergyman’. Matters of the Heart introduces us to couples like Philip and Kathleen to unravel the long history of interracial relationships in New Zealand.

That history runs from whalers and traders marrying into Māori families in the early nineteenth century through to the growth of interracial marriages in the later twentieth. It stretches from common law marriages and Māori customary marriages to formal arrangements recognised by church and state. And that history runs the gamut of official reactions—from condemnation of interracial immorality or racial treason to celebration of New Zealand’s unique intermarriage patterns as a sign of us being ‘one people’ with the ‘best race relations in the world’.

In the history of intimate relations between Māori and Pākehā, public policy and private life were woven together. Matters of the Heart reveals much about how Māori and Pākehā have lived together in this country and our changing attitudes to race, marriage and intimacy.


More about Angela Wanhalla


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Awards and Nominations

Winner – 2014 Ernest Scott prize – Matters of the Heart, Angela Wanhalla



Exploring a surprisingly unspoken part of New Zealand’s history, Wanhalla’s book is, by turns, heart-warming and heart-rending. Love, when it comes with colonial strings, can hurt. This important book, with its detailed research and long time span, tells why. It is powerful history. – Charlotte Macdonald

[Wanhalla's] aim is to demonstrate that interracial marriage “was neither a pre-1840 nor post-World War II phenomenon … [it] has been a feature of life from first contact through the colonial period and beyond”. - Anne Else, Listener NZ

Matters of the Heart is richly documented through original research in a wide range of primary sources and innovative deployment of local histories and genealogies. The photographs are beautiful and carefully interpreted. - Bettina Bradbury