Milton, the rural depression experience
The Great Depression of the 1930's has been seen by historians as essentially a national phenomenon which, unlike the Depression of the 1880's, was a relatively even experience geographically speaking, with no significant amount of regional variation. This assumption has never been vigorously tested. Ashton-Peach has studied Auckland in some detail, while Robertson has focussed on Dunedin, but the scope of each study was necessarily limited and neither has concerned itself with either the small town or the rural experience. This dissertation then attempts to examine both the regional and small town dimension of the Depression, for as Oliver succinctly comments, "The region is a building block; the ultimate interest in the building itself". Milton is an ideal building block. Population of the town during the Depression was small. The 1936 Census records 1,423 residents in total. The town was also reasonably isolated and therefore largely unaffected by events in Dunedin. Fortunately for this study, the population has also remained fairly static over the past forty years, which means that apart from written documents, there is a wealth of oral material for the social historian. This dissertation relies in part on a series of interviews, undertaken in Milton this year, with twelve different families who lived and worked within the town during the Depression and still reside there today. The study attempts in Chapter One to explain the effects of economic depression on the town as a whole. Chapters Two and Three deal with unemployment; first, what it was like to be unemployed, and second, how the town's administrative machinery coped with the problem. Chapters Four and Five deal more specifically with families which were hard pressed by the Depression. Particular emphasis is placed on the types of relief open to them, and the attitudes towards this relief, inherent within the community. Lastly, Chapter Six takes a brief look at general life within the community at this time. The Milton Depression experience was different from that of the cities. It may be that the Milton experience was unique, or that it had much in common with other small, rural centres in New Zealand. Whatever the future verdict, this study attempts to add another piece to the jigsaw puzzle that is New Zealand history.
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts with Honours
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Dissertation
Description: iv, 65 leaves : photo (fold.) ; 30 cm. Notes: Tapes of the interviews accompany this thesis. Not to be quoted without the author's permission. Bibliography: leaves 61-65.