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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Explorer, Maori scholar, and interpreter.

A new biography of Shortland, Edward appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Edward Shortland was born at Courtlands, Devonshire, the third son of Captain Thomas G. Shortland, RN, and brother of Willoughby Shortland, the Administrator. Educated at Exeter Grammar School and Pembroke College, Cambridge, he graduated B.A. (1835) and M.A. (1839). He also studied medicine, being admitted extra-licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, and becoming M.R.C.P. (1860).

Attracted to New Zealand by his brother, Shortland was appointed private secretary to Governor Hobson (1841), and Police Magistrate and Sub-Protector of Aborigines (1842). In 1843 he accompanied Colonel Godfrey as interpreter and native adviser during the South Island land claims investigation, and was present at the hearing of French claims at Akaroa. While on this journey he took the first census of the South Island Maoris. He spent a month at Port Otago, then a deserted whaling station, and later made an overland journey from Waikouaiti to Akaroa. He next explored Banks Peninsula before sailing for Wellington with Bishop Selwyn (1844).

Shortland served in Garibaldi's Sicilian campaign (1860), and there married a “Sicilian lady” by whom he had two sons. He afterwards returned to New Zealand, where he practised medicine quietly in Parnell, Auckland. In 1889 he retired to Plymouth, England, where he died on 2 July 1893.

Shortland, who won considerable acclaim in his lifetime as a Maori scholar and linguist, wrote The Southern Districts of New Zealand (1851), which is an account of his explorations in the early forties; Traditions and Superstitions of the New Zealanders (1854); and Maori Religion and Mythology (1882). He was also the author of numerous pamphlets and newspaper articles.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • Southern Districts of New Zealand, Shortland, E. (1851).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.