New Zealand History/Twentieth Century

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The Dawn of the Twentieth Century

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Major Events from 1900 to 1914

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Second Boer War

By the beginning of the twentieth century, New Zealand was already engaged in its first overseas military campaign, the Second Boer War, in which it helped the British Empire fight against the two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic). There were two notable campaigns in 1900:

  • 15th of January 1900: The New Zealand Mounted Rifles defeated a Boer assault at Slingersfontein, South Africa.
  • 15th of February 1900: New Zealand troops were part of the relief of Kimberley.


The Cook Islands and other Pacific Islands were annexed by New Zealand.

Richard Pearse


Richard Pearse Carries out what is Believed to be the First Manned Heavier-than-air Flight

Richard Pearse, a New Zealand farmer and inventor, was a pioneer in aviation. On the 31st of March 1903, Richard Pearse achieved a semi-controlled flight near Timaru in his home-built plane, approximately nine months before the Wright brothers did.

Pearse built the plane in a workshop on his farm, out of bamboo wire and canvas. When he tested the plane on the 31st of March 1903, it managed to fly several hundred metres before crashing into a hedge. The flight was hardly controlled, however.

Although there were a number of witnesses to this event, Richard Pearse was not very eager to have his achievement widely publicised, or have his planes put into mass production, so his flight is not nearly as well known as the Wright Brothers' flight.


  • Fire destroyed Parliament buildings.
  • Dominion of New Zealand was declared after New Zealand decided not to join the Australian Federation.


  • North Island Main Trunk Railway Line opened.
  • New Zealand's population reached one million.

Forward to New Zealand's Involvement in World War I