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Teenagers: The Rise of Youth Culture in New Zealand

From the 'masher', 'dude' and 'dudine' of the nineteenth century, to the 'flapper', 'bodgie' and 'widgie' of the twentieth, the history of New Zealand's young people evokes a colourful cast of characters. This cultural history project investigates the changing nature of New Zealanders' 'transition to adulthood' between 1800 and the mid-twentieth century.

It is often assumed that the moral panics of the 1950s ushered in the era of the 'teenager'. Born in the milk bars, this new breed went on to parade its nonconformity in front of a conservative society. In partial contrast to this received wisdom, this project seeks to put the 1950s moment in its wider social and historical context.

By exploring the intricacies of New Zealand's past alongside international work on the history of the teenager and the young adult, it aims to flesh out and explain the local situation in its global context.

A range of sources will flesh out the history of young people in New Zealand's past: oral histories, the records of youth groups, diaries and letters, theses and dissertations, published work, pamphlets and ephemera, media reports, government inquiries, archival case files, and family histories. Although I am exploring a wide range of records, young people's own words and opinions are the project's focus. What did adolescents think about their own lives?

Teenagers: The Rise of Youth Culture in New Zealand will be published by Auckland University Press in July 2017. This 80,000 word volume features 230 b/w and colour illustrations.