The Papers of Sir Donald McLean, 1820-1877

Donald McLean (1820-1877) was arguably the most influential figure in mid-19th century New Zealand history. He was a dominant figure in relations between Māori and the Government during this tumultuous period. More about Donald McLean.

This website presents digitised copies of selected series from the papers of Donald McLean held at the Alexander Turnbull Library. More about the scope and contents of the McLean papers.

The papers have been arranged into series, according to normal archival practice. Series are groups of documents with a common provenance that have been created as part of a particular activity or share the same format. More about the arrangement and custodial history of the McLean papers.

Browse complete collection.

The Series


Series 1 - Letters written to Donald McLean (in English)

A large series of 14,500 letters, from many hundreds of letter writers. They mainly relate to McLean's activities as a public servant and politician, but also include family correspondence and correspondence relating to the management of his Hawke's Bay estate. Find out more.

There are 14,501 items in this series, of which 4,023 have been transcribed.


Series 2 - Letters written to Donald McLean (in Māori)

This series comprises almost 3,000 letters written to McLean by Māori from throughout New Zealand. It is the largest surviving group of 19th-century letters in Māori. Find out more.

There are 3,148 items in this series, of which 491 have been transcribed and translated.


Series 3 - Donald McLean's letter books

Most of the letters in this series relate to McLean's earlier career. He kept the earliest letter book when he was Sub-Protector at Taranaki. Later letter books cover his other official roles, but also include some private letters. Find out more.

There are 19 items in this series, of which 10 have been transcribed.


Series 4 - Drafts and fragments of letters written by Donald McLean

This series comprises folders of drafts and fragments of letters written by McLean, spanning most of his career. They complement the letterbooks in series 3. Find out more.

There are 889 items in this series, of which 60 have been transcribed.


Series 5 - Donald McLean's diaries and notebooks

Throughout his career McLean made extensive use of little notebooks for diary entries and notes of his activities. Find out more.

There are 100 items in this series, of which 43 have been transcribed.


Series 6 - Telegrams to and from Donald McLean

From 1869 McLean was able to make use of the telegraph to communicate with officials and politicians. Find out more.

There are 6189 items in this series, of which 12 have been transcribed.


Series 7 - Donald McLean's official papers

This series comprises the working papers McLean created and kept as part of his official duties. It includes official correspondence, reports, draft speech and report notes. Find out more.

There are 3,737 items in this series, of which 758 have been transcribed.


Series 8 - Maps

This series comprises manuscript maps relating particularly to McLean's official land purchase activities and other Government activities, as well as his private land dealings. Find out more.

There are 50 items in this series.


Series 9 - Letters written to Donald McLean by family members

This series comprises letters to McLean from his wife, siblings, son and other relatives. It includes letters from his wife Susan (who died giving birth to their only child, Douglas), Douglas, and his father-in-law, Robert Strang. Other letters are from Donald McLean's siblings Catherine, Annabella, John, Archibald and Alexander. Find out more.

There are 1,204 items in this series, of which 554 have been transcribed.


Series 13 - Other papers

This series comprises various items including research notes on Māori topics, invitations and other ephemera from McLean's social and political life, and a file about his death. Find out more.

There are 66 items in this series.