- Also known as
Sir George Grey
primary name: Grey, George
- individual; military/naval; legal; politician/statesman; British; New Zealander; Male
- Life dates
- Exlplorer, writer and colonial governor. Born in Lisbon to a military family, educated in England and attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Following early military service in Ireland (1830 -36), led two ill-prepared government expeditions to north-west and western Australia, was appointed Resident Magistrate of Western Australia (1839) and published his expedition journals (1841). Governor of South Australia (1841 – 1845), twice Governor of New Zealand (1845 -1854 and 1861-1868), Governor of Cape Colony, South Africa (1854-1861) and Premier of New Zealand (1877-1879). Knighted in 1848.
Grey’s high profile political career was characterised by a mixture of democratic paternalism, underpinned by an fervent belief in the superiority of a European ethos promoted by assisted immigration from Britain and the assimilation of indigenous Australians. Known for overrating in reports to London his mixed achievements, Grey, somewhat confusingly, was both a resolute coloniser – suppressing Maori rebellions in the Bay of Islands – and a preserver of Maori culture, who managed to retain a substantial degree of goodwill. In 1854 he presented a collection of gifts from Maori groups to the British Museum and his 1855 published works on Maori, Polynesian mythologies and languages became well-known. He published an article on stone tools in 1869.
A determined and controversial maverick - recalled to London on occasions, particularly over his independent line on military matters - Grey pursued a combination of public financial rectitude and private philanthropy. In his time he had acted to defer representative government, but also champion trade unions and smallholders against aristocratic interests and had advocated a loose imperial Anglo-Saxon federation, possibly including the USA. Privately, Grey was a keen botanist, a bibliophile and collector of geological and biological specimens, many from his private New Zealand paradise island (Kawau). He continued to serve in the New Zealand House of Representatives until 1893, finally leaving New Zealand in 1894 for London. Died 1898 and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Museum has 165 objects donated by George Grey of which 162 are from Oceania, including 128 from Polynesia (118 from New Zealand) and 28 from Melanesia. A later collection of Grey's Maori objects is in the Auckland Museum, New Zealand.
See Christy Correspondence
Copy letter E Grey, Government House, Cape Town/BM Trustees 28 March 1855 referring to gift to BM of 'a number of Heir-looms, which had been presented to me by various Chiefs in New Zealand' and offering in addition an 'earring drop, one of the oldest heirlooms of New Zealand'.
See also attached undated list of objects (Contents of Box No. 2) annotated by A W Franks 'Sir Geo. Grey's colln, not all presented 54,12-29'.
- The Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
New Zealand History Online
Strazecka, D 'The Maori Collections of the British Museum', The British Museum Press (2010)