Independence and Foreign Policy: New Zealand in the World since 1935

By Malcolm McKinnon | Go to book overview

Preface and acknowledgements

Questions of identity and foreign relations have long been linked in discussion, and my wish to write this book arose partly because I felt that this should not be the case. It did not seem to me that the evolution of identity explained foreign policy, even that it had much to do with it. An analysis of the idea of 'independence' proved to be a much more fertile way of approaching the subject of foreign policy, and it also allowed me to talk more generally about New Zealand's foreign relations over the last five and a half decades.

A number of experiences have shaped my approach to the subject. I became aware of the preoccupations of J. C. Beaglehole and F. L. W. Wood, two scholars often cited in this study, while I was teaching in the History Department at Victoria University, though neither of them had taught me; and also through my involvement with the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs. There is a sense therefore in which I inherited an interest in the issues addressed in the following pages.

Such involvements also exposed me to a world of political assumptions different from those of the world in which I had grown up. In one world it was assumed that one voted National until proven otherwise, in the other it was assumed one voted Labour until proven otherwise. While many studies of New Zealand's culture, including its political culture, have emphasised its homogeneity, I experienced heterogeneity. This in turn meant that in writing this book I would both want, and feel the need, to address ideological issues in foreign policy.

If some experiences made me aware of the extent of division within New Zealand's political culture at any one time, others made me aware of continuities over time. We live in an age when to be physically active, mentally alert and over seventy-five is no great cause for comment. A large number of people now in their seventies and eighties were actively involved in almost all the events recounted in this study, and may be some of its most interested readers. The time period of this book is less than that of my parents' lifetime, even though it traverses two generations (25-30 years) in which there have been two major ( 1943-45, 1989-91) and two lesser ( 1953-55, 1969-72) 'revolutions' in international relations. But the outlook and experience of my parents, and many of their generation in New Zealand, have been marked by

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