|dc.description.abstract||The First World War occupies a pivotal position in New Zealand’s history. From a population of just 1.1 million, around 124,000 men were mobilised into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and 100,000 were sent overseas. Of those, approximately 18,000 were killed and 41,000 more wounded.
Hitherto, much of the historical focus of New Zealand’s war experience has been on its military commitment, unsurprising given the human cost. Somewhat less attention has been paid to the experiences of the one million people who remained at home, largely supportive of the war effort. This thesis examines the role and influence of religion in shaping the attitudes of the people on the “home front” to the war and the war effort. It investigates specifically the themes of patriotism, recruiting, holy war and sacrifice, and sectarianism.
The city of Dunedin has been selected as the object of this study, with a specific focus on its three dominant Christian denominations, Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic. As one of New Zealand’s four main urban centres, Dunedin had a broad cross-section of socio-economic groups and ranged from the highly urbanised boroughs of South Dunedin and St Kilda to the rural Taieri Plain.
Based on a comprehensive search of religious and other New Zealand newspapers published over the period of the war, there is clear evidence that the residents of Dunedin were broadly supportive of the nation’s war effort and that the extent to which religion was influential in the lives of ordinary people was much greater than has been previously represented in many historical accounts. There is also evidence that elements of religious observance and belief were present in everyday life for many New Zealanders, more important to some than others, but almost always present. This undoubtedly influenced society’s reaction to the war and its continuing support for the war effort. Religion was not confined to the churches, but was demonstrated in everyday life, through the press, public meetings, social and community organisations, schooling, donations and voluntary work. It was a vital part of New Zealand’s make-up.||