Understanding New Zealand

Understanding New Zealand

Understanding New Zealand

Understanding New Zealand

Excerpt

In August, 1872, the novelist Anthony Trollope arrived in New Zealand with his mind full of stories about Maori warriors and exotic scenery, about missionaries and the cannibals who ate them. To his astonishment it seemed that he had found another Britain. Round any corner he might find a scene to remind him of some part of the British Isles--if not in England, then in Scotland or Ireland. On his first night in New Zealand he stayed at a hotel that might have been in any one of a hundred English towns, and had to bargain and bully in the same old way to get a bedroom, a bath, and some supper. So, he cheerfully complained; he had sailed right round the world and yet could not get away from England.

Trollope exaggerated. The colonists had transplanted what they could of England, but the native trees and grasses remained; and as for the people, he soon found that they were developing their own ideas and customs. New Zealanders, like Australians and Americans, were already different in subtle ways from Englishmen and Scots, just as they were different from one another; and in the seventy years that have passed since Trollope's visit these differences have grown. Powerful forces have bound modern New Zealand to what is still sometimes called "home"; politics, sentiment, and economic interest have sometimes made British settlers morbidly conscious of their links with the mother country. Yet these colonists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have felt the same kind of influence that acted on their predecessors, the Polynesians who colonized New Zealand six hundred years ago. The story of the Polynesians, ancestors of the modern Maoris, shows how an active and intelligent immigrant people, living in isolation, can adapt its personal habits . . .

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