The Papers of Sir Donald McLean

The Papers of Sir Donald McLean masthead


Donald McLean (1820-1877) was arguably the most influential figure in mid-19th century New Zealand history, playing a central role in relations between Māori and the Government during this tumultuous period.

McLean was a fluent Māori speaker and was a confident participant at the many Māori hui (meetings) he attended throughout the country. His influence in part maintained a large network of informants, and he relied on their regular reports for information about what was going on around the country. His work also took him on many expeditions to meet with Māori leaders, which he carefully documented in his diaries and notebooks. The papers, therefore, provide a particularly rich record of interactions between Government and Māori at this time.

This website presents digitised copies of selected series from the papers of Donald McLean held at the Alexander Turnbull Library. The papers have been arranged into series, according to normal archival practice. Series are groups of documents with a common provenance that have been created as part of a particular activity or share the same format.

The largest component of the collection is the group of approximately 14,500 English-language letters McLean received from many hundreds of correspondents, both public and private. Just as significant are the almost 3000 letters from Māori correspondents, which are the largest surviving series of nineteenth-century Māori letters. There are sequences of outwards letters, a large body of working papers relating to McLean's various political positions, diaries, maps, family letters and other papers.

The translation project 'E Mā: Ngā Tuhituhinga ki a Makarini' opened up these manuscript letters in the McLean Papers collection to greater use by providing transcriptions of the letters written in Māori and translations of these letters into English.

More information

Region National
Available online 1839-1876

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