History overview

Discover the benefits of studying History at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

Study History—discovering the source

If you want to do postgraduate study in History, you need access to the sources.

You're surrounded by the rich holdings of the archives and libraries in the capital. You can take advantage of the best research archives and resources in the country for New Zealand history. You'll have access to the Alexander Turnbull Library, Archives New Zealand, The National Library and many more resources.

We offer a wide range of History courses taught by staff with international reputations for teaching, research and publishing. Topics are as diverse as the history of science and magic, representation of history in film, the slave trade, clothing and nationalism and demographic change.

Why study History at Victoria University of Wellington?

EH Carr once described history as an unending dialogue between past and present. History is as essential to human society as memory is to an individual. Through the study of History we explore our past in an effort to understand our present. It also offers reference points for speculation about what might be possible in the future. It provides a framework within which complex issues of identity, morality and reality can be argued out.

We have the best research archives and resources in the country for New Zealand History, as well as good early modern material right on our doorstep:

  • Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision (previously New Zealand Film Archive)
  • Alexander Turnbull Library
  • New Zealand Historic Places Trust
  • National Archives
  • Waitangi Tribunal
  • Museum of Wellington—City and Sea
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • National Library of New Zealand

The Information Revolution requires problem solvers who can identify a problem, discuss it and suggest solutions. We would argue that you gain these skills through studying History. Through in-depth analysis of particular historical periods and sequences of events, you will not only build specific bodies of knowledge necessary for particular jobs, but also acquire generic skills that are essential to employability. History teaches important research skills, notably the careful collection, selection, and interpretation of evidence, from a wide variety of sources. Studying History also helps develop analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills, as well as encouraging imagination and creativity.

History students are actively involved in promoting the discipline. The New Historians Postgraduate Conference, organised by current postgraduate students, is an annual event that gives postgraduates from around the country the opportunity to present papers and establish close ties within the New Zealand postgraduate research community.

History staff at the University research and write internationally recognised books and articles on a wide range of topics, as diverse as the history of science and magic, representation of history in film, the slave trade, clothing and nationalism and demographic change.


History Programme Research Seminars are held regularly during teaching periods. All PhD and MA students must make a work-in-progress presentation.


Tutoring or marking work is often available for History postgraduate students. An application form can be requested from hppi@vuw.ac.nz

Outreach programme

Over recent years History staff, in conjunction with Wellington Area History Teachers' Association, have run a Year 13 Day for final year school students. For more information see the History Secondary Schools' Outreach Programme page.

Graduate attributes

All History courses contribute to understanding the development of the historical discipline and the following specific attributes:

Specialised understanding of discipline

  • Learn broad processes of change over time.
  • Gain knowledge of specialised topics and debates in History.
  • Gain confidence in applying the means by which claims are tested in the discipline.
  • Develop disciplinary thinking, gaining an understanding of the limits and possibilities of evidence.
  • Develop understanding about historical context, the importance and particularity of time and place.

Critical and creative thinking

  • Come to terms with conflicting or different arguments.
  • Learn to argue two sides of the same point.
  • Ask rich and powerful questions of the past.
  • Understand the implications of time and place for what is being researched and for the researcher.
  • Generate interpretations about current events informed by historical antecedents.

Communicate complex ideas

  • Write in a clear and lively way, paraphrase information in your own words.
  • Generalise the argument of existing historiography to different settings.
  • Develop well-documented, logical arguments from a variety of written and oral sources.
  • Connect seemingly disparate ideas through the development of analytical frameworks.
  • Develop historical arguments through written and oral discussion.

Developing intellectual autonomy and integrity

  • Use library print and online resources efficiently and constructively.
  • Develop the capacity to ask pertinent questions in group situations.
  • Strengthen learning via collegiality.
  • Develop cumulative knowledge of the scholarly apparatus and conventions of the discipline that ensure transparency, accuracy and accountability of findings.
  • Lead discussion in a variety of classroom settings.
  • Design research projects and research questions at a range of levels.
  • Enhance mentorship skills through peer study.

Set professional and personal goals

  • Strengthen time management skills essential to developing professional habits.
  • Develop self-confidence and assertiveness.
  • Strengthen decision-making capabilities.
  • Strengthen awareness of societal challenges and civic duty.

Develop international perspectives

  • The teaching of History at Victoria University of Wellington is anchored in the teaching of areas of specialisation including histories of India, Europe, America and Canada, Australia and the Pacific, the UK and New Zealand's place in the world.
  • Graduates gain an appreciation of the specificity of cultural, environmental and social contexts.
  • Graduates generate interpretations about current events informed by historical antecedents.