Claudia Orange

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Dame Claudia Orange
Born Claudia Josepha Bell
(1938-04-17) 17 April 1938 (age 79)
Auckland, New Zealand
Alma mater University of Auckland
Spouse(s) Rod Orange
Children Three
Scientific career
Fields New Zealand history
Thesis The Treaty of Waitangi: a study of its making, interpretation and role in New Zealand history (1984)

Dame Claudia Josepha Orange DNZM OBE (née Bell, born 17 April 1938) is a New Zealand historian best known for her 1987 book The Treaty of Waitangi, which won 'Book of the Year' at the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Award in 1988.[1]

Since 2013 she has been the head of research at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, where she was previously the director of collections and research.

Personal life

Orange was born in Auckland in 1938. Her father, Monty Bell, was a fluent speaker of te reo Māori, knew Āpirana Ngata and joined the Department of Māori Affairs in Gisborne, so she grew up well aware of Māori issues.[2] She trained and practised as a dental nurse for 15 years[3] before starting university studies. She is married to Rod Orange and has three adult children.[2]


From 1975 to 1983 Orange was a history lecturer at the University of Auckland. From 1990 she was general editor of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, having been associate editor previously; she also worked on Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. She was also an associate editor for the new Dictionary of National Biography (Britain).

Between 1997 and 2000 she was acting chief historian of the History Branch in the Department of Internal Affairs. Late in 2003 she became director of history and Pacific cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. Since 2013 Orange has been the head of research at Te Papa.[4]

Orange was the historian custodian of the "Treaty Road show", which was a tour around New Zealand sponsored by the New Zealand government. It attracted some public criticism as being ineffective and "an enormous disappointment" from her fellow historian Paul Moon.[5]

The Treaty of Waitangi (1987)

The 1987 book was derived from her 1984 PhD thesis.[6] Despite being an academic history, it was a popular success, due primarily to an upsurge in interest in the Treaty of Waitangi caused by the increasing importance of the Waitangi Tribunal and also major Māori protests at Waitangi Day celebrations.[citation needed] The book has become a definitive reference for interpreting the relevance of the Treaty of Waitangi.[citation needed] Several shorter versions of the book have been published for young and non-academic audiences, and a revised edition was released in 2011.


In the 1993 New Year Honours, Orange was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to historical research.[7] She was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, also for services to historical research, in the 2009 New Year Honours.[8] She accepted re-designation as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in August 2009 following the restoration of titular honours by the New Zealand government.[9]

Published works

  • The Covenant of Kohimarama (1979).
  • The Treaty of Waitangi (Allen & Unwin, 1987).
  • The Story of a Treaty (Bridget Williams Books, 1989).
  • An Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi (Allen & Unwin, 1990).
  • An Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi (2nd edition, Bridget Williams Books, 2004).
  • The Treaty of Waitangi, 2nd edition (Bridget Williams Books, 2011)
  • The Story of a Treaty, 2nd edition (Bridget Williams Books, 2013)


  • A kind of equality: Labour and the Maori people, 1935–1949, MA thesis, University of Auckland, 1977.
  • The Treaty of Waitangi: a study of its making, interpretation and role in New Zealand history, PhD thesis, University of Auckland, 1984.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Claudia Orange: A clear voice on the Treaty" Archived 4 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine., Bridget Williams Books
  3. ^ "Honours List: Getting her teeth into the Treaty", Phoebe Falconer, 31 Dec 2008, The New Zealand Herald
  4. ^ "Our experts – directory of curators". Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Moon, Paul (26 April 2007). "Government's Treaty roadshow failing". Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Nippert, Matt (12 March 2005). "Dr. Claudia Orange". New Zealand Listener. 
  7. ^ "No. 53154". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1992. p. 30. 
  8. ^ "New Year honours list 2009". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "Special honours list". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
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