The NZ Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict
The NZ Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict
Belich, James
James Belich’s book is a tour de force. In a brilliant new analysis, he demolishes the received wisdom of the course and outcome of the new Zealand Wars . . . explains how we came by the version and why it is all wrong, and substitutes his own interpretation. It is a vigorous and splendidly stylish contribution to our historiography. – the New Zealand Listener This is not just a good book. It is a remarkable book. – Professor Keith Sinclair First published in 1986, James Belich’s groundbreaking book and the television series based upon it transformed New Zealanders’ understanding of the ‘bitter and bloody struggles’ between M?ori and P?keh? in the nineteenth century. Revealing the enormous tactical and military skill of M?ori, and the inability of the ‘Victorian interpretation of racial conflict’ to acknowledge those qualities, Belich’s account of the New Zealand Wars offered a very different picture from the one previously given in historical works. M?ori, in Belich’s view, won the Northern War and stalemated the British in the Taranaki War of 1860–61 only to be defeated by 18,000 British troops in the Waikato War of 1863–64. The secret of effective M?ori resistance was an innovative military system, the modern p?, a trench-and-bunker fortification of a sophistication not achieved in Europe until 1915. According to the author: ‘The degree of Maori success in all four major wars is still underestimated – even to the point where, in the case of one war, the wrong side is said to have won.’ This bestselling classic of New Zealand history is a must-read – and Belich’s larger argument about the impact of historical interpretation resonates today.
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