Scope and contents of the Donald McLean papers

This website presents digitised copies of selected series from the papers of Donald McLean held at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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 size and scope of the papers reflect McLean's personality and ways of working. McLean's 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.

He liked to keep his papers to himself, and often avoided filing them with other Native Department records, no matter how much they concerned key Government business. This had one advantage for later historians. Many of the Native Department's records from the 19th century were destroyed when Parliament Buildings burnt down in 1907. McLean's papers at the Turnbull Library help fill some of the gaps left by this loss.

Not all the McLean papers have been digitised. The emphasis has been on making available all the material relating to his work as a politician and Government official. Papers relating to the administration of McLean's various properties, financial papers, newspaper cuttings, and the papers of other family members have not been included at this time.

Parliament burns, 11 December 1907.

The 1907 fire that destroyed Parliament Buildings in Wellington, and with it many of the nineteenth-century records of the Native Department. The loss gives added importance to the McLean papers.

Parliament burns, 11 December 1907.
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