Frances Steel Dr Frances Steel

BA, PGDip (Otago) PhD (ANU)

Location: 19.2023
02 4221 3608

Frances Steel is a historian of the Pacific World and a founding member and co-convenor of the Colonial and Settler Studies Network (CASS) in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts.


Her research lies at the intersection of histories of empire, mobility and the sea. Her work covers settler colonial sub-imperialisms in the Pacific, oceanic mobilities, networks of commodity exchange, and ships and port towns as sites of colonial encounters and consumption. She focuses primarily on connections between New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, while also extending to transpacific mobilities encompassing islands in Polynesia including Hawai‘i, as well as the US and Canadian west coasts.


Frances held an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (2012-14) on 'Oceanic Crossings: Cultures of trans-Pacific passenger shipping in the age of steam'. Her other grants include an Australian Research Council Discovery Project (2012-13), along with Associate Professor Julia Martinez, Associate Professor Victoria Haskins and Dr Claire Lowrie, for 'Houseboys: Transcolonial histories of domestic service in the Asia Pacific'.


Searchable RIS Publications database >>


  • 2011 Oceania Under Steam: Sea Transport and the Cultures of Colonialism, c.1870–1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, Studies in Imperialism series).

Book chapters:

  • 2015 "'Fiji is really the Honolulu of the Dominion": Tourism, empire and New Zealand's Pacific, c.1900-35,' in Katie Pickles and Catharine Coleborne, eds, New Zealand's Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press), 147-62.
  • 2013 ‘Lines Across the Sea: Trans-Pacific passenger shipping in the age of steam,’ in Robert Aldrich and Kirsten McKenzie, eds, The Routledge History of Western Empires (London and New York: Routledge), 315-29.
  • 2010 ‘Maritime mobilities in Pacific history: Towards a scholarship of betweenness,’ in Gijs Mom et al, eds, Mobility in History: Themes in Transport: T2M Yearbook 2011 (Neuchatel: Editions Alphil), 199-204.
  • 2010 ‘Via New Zealand around the world: The Union Steam Ship Company and the trans-Pacific mail lines, 1880s-1910s,’ in Prue Ahrens and Chris Dixon, eds, Coast to Coast: Case Histories of Modern Pacific Crossings (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholar’s Publishing), 59-76.
  • 2008 ‘Suva under steam: Mobile men and a colonial port capital, 1880s-1910s,’ in Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton, eds., Moving Subjects: Gender, Mobility and Intimacy in an Age of Global Empire (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press), 110-26.

Journal articles: 

  • 2015. 'The "Missing Link": Space, race and transoceanic ties in the settler-colonial Pacific', Transfers: Interdisciplinary journals of Mobility Studies, 5, no.3 (2015): 49-67.
  • 2015. 'Re-routing Empire? Steam age circulations and the making of an Anglo Pacific, c.1850-90' Australian Historical Studies, 46, no.3 (2015): 356-73.
  • 2013. ‘Cruising New Zealand’s West Coast Sounds: Fiord tourism in the Tasman World, c.1870–1910,’ Australian Historical Studies, 44, no.3 (2013): 361-81.
  • 2013. ‘An Ocean of Leisure: Early cruise tours of the Pacific in an age of empire,’ Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 14, no.2.
  • 2011 'Uncharted waters? Cultures of sea transport and mobility in New Zealand colonial history', Journal of New Zealand Studies 12, Special Issue: Communicating culture in colonial New Zealand, 137-54.
  • 2008 ‘Women, men and the Southern Octopus: Shipboard gender relations in the age of steam,’ International Journal of Maritime History Forum: Women and the Sea in the Pacific, XX, no. 2 (December 2008): 285-306.
  • 2005 ‘A source of our wealth, yet adverse to our health? Butter and the diet-heart link in New Zealand to c. 1990,’ Social History of Medicine 18, no. 3 (December 2005): 179-94.
  • 2005 ‘“New Zealand is Butterland”: Interpreting the historical significance of a daily spread,’ New Zealand Journal of History 39, no. 2 (October 2005): 475-93.


Last reviewed: 5 January, 2016