William Pember Reeves

William Pember Reeves (10 February 1857 – 16 May 1932) was a New Zealand politician, cricketer, historian and poet who promoted social reform.

William Pember Reeves
William Pember Reeves, ca 1887.jpg
Portrait of William Pember Reeves possibly taken when he was elected to be a member of parliament in 1887
5th High Commissioner to the United Kingdom[nb 1]
In office
December 1896 – December 1908
Edward VII
Prime MinisterRichard Seddon
Preceded byWestby Perceval
Succeeded byWilliam Hall-Jones
1st Minister of Labour
In office
31 May 1892 – 10 January 1896
Prime MinisterJohn Ballance
Richard Seddon
Succeeded byRichard Seddon
9th Minister of Education
In office
24 January 1891 – 10 January 1896
Prime MinisterJohn Ballance
Richard Seddon
Preceded byThomas William Hislop
Succeeded byWilliam Campbell Walker
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for City of Christchurch
In office
5 December 1890 – 13 February 1896
Preceded byConstituency recreated
Succeeded byCharles Lewis
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for St Albans
In office
26 September 1887 – 5 December 1890
Preceded byFrancis James Garrick
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born(1857-02-10)10 February 1857
Lyttelton, New Zealand
Died16 May 1932(1932-05-16) (aged 75)
London, England
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Magdalen Stuart Robison
Children3, including Amber Reeves
ParentsWilliam Reeves (father)
Ellen Pember (mother)
OccupationLawyer and journalist
Cricket information
Domestic team information
Career statistics
Competition First-class
Matches 5
Runs scored 188
Batting average 20.88
100s/50s 0/1
Top score 54
Catches/stumpings 1/0
Source: ESPN Cricinfo, 22 November 2020

Early life and careerEdit

Reeves's parents were William Reeves, who was a journalist and politician, and Ellen Reeves, née Pember. They had migrated from Britain to Canterbury Province in 1857, arriving three weeks before he was born.[1]

He was educated at a private "prep" school in Christchurch, the local high school and, from 1867 to 1874, Christ's College Grammar School.[2] Before entering politics, Reeves was a lawyer and journalist. He was editor of the Canterbury Times in 1885 and the Lyttelton Times (1889–1891).[3]


Reeves played in five first-class cricket matches for Canterbury from 1879 to 1888.[4] A batsman, his highest score was 54, Canterbury's top score in the match, when Canterbury beat Otago by four runs in February 1883.[5]

Political careerEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1887–1890 10th St Albans Independent
1890–1893 11th Christchurch Liberal
1893–1896 12th Christchurch Liberal

Reeves represented the Christchurch electorate of St Albans in Parliament from 1887 to 1890, and then Christchurch from 1890 to 1896, when he resigned to take up the post of Agent General.[6] During the premierships of John Ballance (1891–93) and Richard Seddon (1893–1906) he served as Minister of Labour (1892–96), Minister of Education (1891–96), Minister of Justice (1891–92, 1893, 1895–96) and Commissioner of Stamp Duties (1892–96).[7] As Minister of Labour he introduced the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894 and the Undesirable Immigrants Exclusion Bill, which, if it had been passed, would have barred poor and Asian immigrants from the country. His opposition to the entry of those he considered "undesirable" immigrants earned him the nickname "Undesirable Bill" Reeves.[8]

In LondonEdit

In January 1896 Reeves left New Zealand for London, where he was Agent General (1896–1905) and High Commissioner (1905–08).[9] While he was in Britain Reeves became a friend of a number of left-wing intellectuals, such as George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, all leading members of the Fabian Society. He was also a member of the Coefficients dining club of social reformers.[10]

William Pember Reeves in 1925

Reeves became Director of the London School of Economics (1908–19) and President of the Anglo-Hellenic League (1913–25). He also headed the committee organising the First Universal Races Congress in London in 1911. Finally, he was chairman of the board of the National Bank of New Zealand from 1917 to 31.

Reeves's more influential writings include his history of New Zealand, The Long White Cloud (1898) and State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand (1902). He also published a number of poems, such as "The Passing of the Forest" and "A Colonist in his Garden".

Reeves married, in 1885, the feminist Magdalen Stuart Robison, who joined the Fabian Society. They had two daughters, the feminist writer Amber Reeves (born 1887) and Beryl (born 1889), and one son, Fabian Pember Reeves (1895–1917), who was killed in the First World War, aged 21, as a Flight Lieutenant in the RNAS.[11]

Reeves three times declined offers of a knighthood.[3]


  • "New Zealand To-day" . The Empire and the century. London: John Murray. 1905. pp. 462–77.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ the last Agent-General and the first High Commissioner for the Dominion of New Zealand
  1. ^ Sinclair, Keith. "Reeves, William Pember". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  2. ^ Keith Sinclair (2007). "REEVES, the Hon. William Pember". Encyclopedia of New Zealand 1966. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
  3. ^ a b 16 July 2007
  4. ^ "William Reeves". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Canterbury v Otago 1882-83". CricketArchive. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  6. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 229.
  7. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 71–72.
  8. ^ "Immigration regulation". teara.govt.nz. 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2007.
  9. ^ Hamer 1988, p. 365.
  10. ^ Sinclair 1965, pp. 296–8.
  11. ^ Sinclair 1965, p. 332.


External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas William Hislop
Minister of Education
Succeeded by
William Campbell Walker
Preceded by
William Russell
Minister of Justice


Succeeded by
Alfred Cadman
Preceded by
Alfred Cadman
Succeeded by
Alfred Cadman
Succeeded by
William Hall-Jones
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Francis James Garrick
Member of Parliament for St Albans
In abeyance
Title next held by
Jack Watts
Constituency recreated after abolition in 1881
Title last held by
Samuel Paull Andrews, Edward Richardson, Edward Cephas John Stevens
Member of Parliament for Christchurch
Served alongside: Westby Perceval (1890–1891), Richard Molesworth Taylor (1890–1893), Ebenezer Sandford (1891–1893), George John Smith and William Whitehouse Collins (1893–1896)
Succeeded by
Charles Lewis
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Westby Perceval
High Commissioner of New Zealand to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
William Hall-Jones
Educational offices
Preceded by
Halford Mackinder
Director of the London School of Economics
Succeeded by
William Beveridge