History (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about New Zealand history?

Entry last updated: 01/05/20


Aotearoa New Zealand has a unique story involving a variety of people, places and events. In this entry we'll show you the best websites and books to use to explore this history and find out what has happened in Aotearoa New Zealand in the past.

General websites

There are some excellent places to look for information and facts about important people, places and events in New Zealand's history.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • The tabs ( Stories A-Z, Te Reo Māori, Biographies etc) at the top of the page are one way of searching for information.
  • Another way would be to scroll down the page to look at Sections, Biographies and Te Tai Treaty Settlement Stories.
    • Sections explores various aspects of New Zealand history, such as sport, people of New Zealand, the bush, government and more.
    • Biographies covers the life stories of over 3,000 famous New Zealanders who are no longer living.
    • Te Tai Treaty Settlement Stories aims to increase awareness and understanding of Treaty settlements and their impact.
  • You can also use the search bar at the top of the page to do a keyword search.
  • Te Ara is bilingual so you can view information in English and te reo Māori.
Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .gov or .edu in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.


NZHistory is another great website from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage on the history of New Zealand Aotearoa.

There are lots of different ways to use this website to find information, depending on what kind of history you are interested in.

  • Information is split up into different areas like People, Places and Events.
  • You can also look at Topics for things like Culture and Society, Politics and Government, and New Zealand at War.
  • If you scroll down the page, you will find a link to Biographies. These are short life stories of famous people in the past and in the present.
  • You can also use the search bar at the top of the page to type in search words like 'Gallipoli' or 'Hōne Heke'.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg [Gallipoli]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.


EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and has databases that are useful for learning about the history of New Zealand.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. It’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once. It has lots of primary sources.

  • Use the search box to type in names, events or places in New Zealand
  • Notice that the results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.
  • Here you will find lots of primary sources like letters, diaries, photographs and interviews.
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats on a variety of topics. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

  • Choose the topic New Zealand History.
  • Look at Related topics that appears on the right to find more New Zealand history topics on Topic Explorer.
Tips: We like these links because they have all been chosen by librarians, so the sites will be trustworthy. Read 'About Topic explorer' or the ' Topic Explorer guide ' that appears on the right hand side of the main page to understand why Topic Explorer was created and what can be found in each of the sets.

Local History websites

Local history information can be difficult to find online. If you happen to live in a large centre, or where well-known events happened in the past, then there is more likely to be information about the history of your area. You can also try your local council or library. Many libraries will have dedicated pages set up for local history.


NZHistory has a few ways of looking up the history of your local area.

  • Go to tab called Places, then select a region, then select the city, town or township you are looking for.
  • Select the section called Culture and Society and explore Places and Memorials from the list that comes up.
  • Scroll down to the end of the page and find Hands on History. Then select Links and Resources to find the link Links - local history.
  • Or you could use the search bar and enter keywords for a local area.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is another source of local history content.

  • Go to Sections and find Places.
  • Explore the major regions and their significant places, towns and townships.
  • Also check out the External links and sources found on each of the major regions. These pages have links to local councils and books on the history of that area.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!


Here are a few books about general New Zealand history for you to look for at your school or local library. Your local librarian is a great person to ask for the best books about your local area.

SCIS no: 1832662

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