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Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796–1862) was a colonial advocate and political theorist, who was influential in the early colonisation of New Zealand and South Australia. Wakefield read widely on contemporary economics and social questions, and his theory of colonisation helped shape the British Empire. He formed the New Zealand Association in 1837 to create a new colony in that country, finally emigrating himself in 1852. His son, the editor of this volume of letters, was appointed secretary of the first settler expedition to New Zealand in 1839, and was elected political representative for Canterbury in 1854. The letters in the volume, published in 1868, which span the period 1847–50, trace the history of the town of Canterbury from Wakefield senior's suggestion of church-led settlement in the 1840s to its foundation in 1850–1. A planned second volume was never published.