The Origins of the Maori Wars

The Origins of the Maori Wars

The Origins of the Maori Wars

The Origins of the Maori Wars

Excerpt

In New Zealand's brief colonial history, little has happened on an epic scale; even the Maori wars were minor episodes in the affairs of an empire. Nevertheless, those campaigns were the most dramatic event to interrupt, from within, the relatively smooth tenor of the country's existence. It has been an interruption to the work of founding a new state, rather than as a formative struggle, that the colonists and their descendants have generally regarded the wars. Few, except Maoris and historians, have cared to recognize their influence. At once civil war, rebellion, and conquest, the wars roused the usual bitterness of such conflicts, and were marked by the savagery of racial strife. Their immediate legacy was recurrent denunciation and recrimination. Yet they formed what now seems a necessary prelude to the growth of a new nation which embraces two races.

Much of the polemics during and after the fighting was concerned with the Waitara land purchase, which immediately led to war. Three generations have speculated on this subject, adding confusion to what was already obscure, so that it has appeared the most mysterious event in New Zealand history.

This book is not meant to provide a general history of New Zealand from Cook to Te Kooti: its aim is to consider how the wars came about. In following this theme, the plan I have adopted is to sketch in outline the remoter sources of the war and to describe much more thoroughly the situation in the late eighteen- fifties. The discussion becomes more detailed as the story nears 1860. In the first eight chapters an attempt is made to analyse the chief tendencies which were making for war in the years after 1840. In the later chapters dealing with the events which immediately preceded war a closer attention to chronology and individuals has been considered necessary. There was, in any case, little possibility of ignoring the individual altogether, and of discussing the wars entirely in abstract and general terms. In 1860 the country gave a home to a small community of about fifty-six thousand Maoris and rather more Europeans. The number of people who took part in public life was so small that the historian naturally thinks of them as individuals rather than as groups or classes. Furthermore, very many of them have left collections of letters or journals so that we possess more informa-

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