Teaching Module

New Zealand Childhoods (18th–20th c.)

Code of Honour [Literary Excerpt]


The overt moral tone of the advice reproduced on page 51 of this particular diary was neither unusual nor exceptional for the period. Similar sentiments were to be found in the schoolbooks of the era, many of which were produced and distributed by Whitcombe and Tombs, the country's largest publishing house at the time. Their standard history text for primary schools during the 1930s, Our Nation's Story, was essentially about British and Imperial history, and contained constant reference to the public school values which were thought to underpin Britain's greatness. Similarly, the state-funded and universally-distributed School Journal, begun in 1907 (and continuing still), promoted literacy and a love of literature while also emphasizing, in the interwar years, the obligations of citizenship.

Immediately following the Code of Honour, Pocket Diary users were challenged to test themselves. The headline read: "What is your moral worth?" Several of the questions – and 'yes' was the answer expected for all of them – were essentially an unsubtle rephrasing of parts of the Code. Hence: "Do you prefer fresh air to tobacco smoke, pure water to alcohol, good plain food to rich sweet rubbish, wholesome books, plays and pictures to filthy ones?" Yet, despite the emphasis on Christian doctrine apparent in two of the first three questions, the fourth promoted an inclusive and tolerant approach. "Are you prepared to allow others perfect freedom in religious belief, however much they may differ from you?" The Reading Lists that followed included Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, Edmund Burke, Walter Scott, and Jane Austen. The Book of Job, Isaiah, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes were key recommendations from the Bible. Few of the 40 authors listed were not British.


The New Zealand Boys' Diary: Whitcombe's New Zealand Pocket Diary for 1936. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1936, 51.

Primary Source Text



Are you one or only an overgrown baby? Are you faithful in your duties to God? Are you pure in thought, word and action? Do you study to imitate the greatest men or women of the world? Have you the strength of will to eat, drink and play in moderation and such forms of each as will make you better morally, intellectually and physically? Are you determined to work for the betterment of your fellow men?


Breathe freely        Drink water copiously       Sleep regularly       Serve willingly

Eat temperately        Bathe frequently       Work calmly        Speak kindly

Chew thoroughly        Laugh heartily        Exercise daily        Read much


As a New Zealander, proud of the privilege, yet humble in the enjoyment of it:

You will scorn all dishonesty, of whatsoever form or degree, as petty and mean and altogether unworthy of your family and the high traditions of your school and your Empire.

You will cherish frankness and sincerity, never committing the smallest deception of silence, word, or deed.

You will readily acknowledge your faults and resolutely fight them.

You will avoid the arch-sin of selfishness – whence spring all other sins – for under its sway Empires have crumbled to dust.

In all things you will be temperate – in eating, in play, in rest, in work, exercising always the one true discipline – discipline of self.

You will rise above intolerance and cultivate breadth of vision, endeavouring always to see both sides of a question, so guarding against the formation of hasty and uncharitable opinions.

You will regard coarseness in thought, language, or action, as belittling and degrading, and always and altogether beneath the dignity of a future citizen of this fair Dominion.

You will cheerfully yield reasonable and prompt obedience to your elders, particularly your parents; and you will show a like respect for the rules of your school, the by-laws of your town, and the laws of your country, since you know that rules and laws are not needlessly made.

You will exercise a jealous care over all property, particularly public property, protecting it from damage or disfigurement; and, loving the beautiful, you will seek to remove all unsightliness from your home, your school, and your town.

You will be punctual and orderly and cheerful. You will keep your promises. You will grudge no effort, no matter how small or how great the task, remembering that only your best is good enough.

You will be courteous, and kind, and helpful to all, remembering that all honest labour is equally honourable.

You will play for the side and play the game, always striving honourably for victory, yet taking defeat, when it comes, as part of the game. You will never add to the discomfort of a defeated opponent. Most of all you will love clean play and good play, whether it is on your own or the opposing side.

You will ever be pure and true, for there are those who daily trust you. You will remember that in the hands of the Children of To-day is the World of To-morrow and you will strive to be not unworthy of the sacred trust.

You will remember the Golden Rule, acting towards others always as it would most please you that they should act towards you.

Lastly, you will seek honour before all else, ever remembering that there is no finer aristocracy than the aristocracy of character; and you will not forget that character is built of tiny acts, small strivings, and much earnestness.

How to Cite This Source

"New Zealand Childhoods (18th–20th c.)," in Children and Youth in History, Item #93, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/93 (accessed August 10, 2021).