Difficult Histories: The New Zealand Wars

Difficult Histories: The New Zealand Wars is the Marsden Fund-supported research project that I am co-Principal Investigator on with Professor Joanna Kidman. The project traces shifting historical perspectives of the New Zealand Wars and investigates how different groups have commemorated these conflicts over time and how memory and silence about this difficult past permeates people’s everyday lives in the present.
We have recently established a YouTube channel featuring webinars and other talks we have taken part in, playlists of other relevant material, and short videos filmed during our visits to sites connected with the New Zealand Wars.Recently, for example, we visited a number of sites at Whanganui and Taranaki, including Handley's Woolshed, in the Nukumaru district, where a group of Māori children were attacked by the Kai Iwi Cavalry in November 1868 and two of their number killed in horrific circumstances. In the video below we discuss what we found when we visited the s…

Frontier Town: History, Memory and Myth on the King Country Aukati

Earlier this month, I gave a webinar as part of the University of Auckland History Department's 2020 seminar series. Because this was delivered online, it was possible to record the session, which has since been made available to view.

Today, the street signs pay silent homage to the Pākehā politicians and soldiers responsible for its conquest and confiscation in the Waikato War of 1863-64. Grey, Cameron, Carey, Whitaker and other streets in the small Waikato town of Kihikihi taunt its many Māori residents with daily reminders of the devastating effects and consequences of that conflict felt over many generations. Drawing on research for a Marsden Fund project documenting how the New Zealand Wars are remembered and forgotten, this seminar traces the intersections of history, memory and myth in this Waikato frontier town. Watch the video here:

'I am an Irishman': Irish and Māori Historical Connections

Just as exceptionalism has formed an enduring strand of American historiography, New Zealand history has its own variant of this. In New Zealand’s case, this rests largely on the notion that the Treaty of Waitangi signed in 1840 between representatives of Queen Victoria and more than 500 Māori chiefs represented a unique experiment in benevolent and humanitarian imperialism. Allied to this is often the notion that subsequent relations between the indigenous Māori tribes and incoming settlers were, after a few early hiccups, vastly superior to other white settler dominions. For much of the twentieth century Pākehā New Zealanders liked to boast that their country had the ‘greatest race relations in the world’.

It turns out Māori had a different story to tell concerning the history of their relations with the newcomers. In recent decades New Zealand historians have played their own part in deconstructing these myths. Most historians now acknowledge that the Treaty of Waitangi had much d…

Monumental History

In 2019 I was commissioned by Hamilton City Council and Waikato-Tainui to prepare an historical report providing an historical portrait of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton, after whom the city of Hamilton is named, along with Sir George Grey, Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky, and John Bryce, each of whom have streets in Hamilton named after them.My report was released last week. It is available to download from the council website here. See also this report from the Waikato Times on its release. Prior to release of the report, a statue of Captain Hamilton erected in Civic Square had been removed.

A few weeks earlier I spoke with Kim Hill on Morning Report about some of the broader issues around memorialisation and statues that have been brought into focus with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the killing of George Floyd by police in the United States and the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England. See also this recent episode of The Hui and our Diffic…

Street Talk: History, Myth and Memory on the Waikato Frontier

The New Zealand Journal of Public History has just published a special issue devoted to the theme of history and reconciliation. Leah Bell's contribution, 'Difficult Histories', based on her presentation to the New Zealand Historical Association conference at Victoria University of Wellington in November 2019, is essential reading.

Leah presented this as part of a roundtable session for the Marsden Fund project that I am co-Principal Investigator on (with Professor Joanna Kidman), on how the New Zealand Wars have been remembered and forgotten.  

My own contribution to the NZJPH special issue explores the intersection of history, memory and myth on the Waikato frontier.  It focuses on the small rural town of Kihikihi, just inside the 1.2 million acre area confiscated by the Crown in the wake of its invasion of Waikato in 1863, the Puniu River southern boundary of which also served as the northern aukati line marking the limits of the King Country district that Māori survivo…

Video: Owning Our History: The New Zealand Wars

Owning Our History: The New Zealand Wars webinar was held on 22 March 2020.

Kaikōrero / Speakers: Joanna Kidman and Vincent O'Malley
Ringa hāpai / Chair: Susan Healy

Watch the video (58:42) here.

When Ōtorohanga College pupils petitioned Parliament in 2015, calling for a national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars, they sparked a vital debate about memory, identity and history.

How do New Zealanders remember and forget difficult events in our colonial past? Why are some conflicts publicly remembered while others are forgotten or overlooked? And who decides?

Now that New Zealand history will be taught in all schools from 2022, these questions become vitally important.

We argue that iwi and hapū need to be at the forefront of conversations around this new curriculum and that connecting with mana whenua histories will empower rangatahi to better understand the places they call home.

To watch other webinars from the Te Tiriti-Based Futures + Anti-Racism 2020 webina…

New Zealand Wars Teaching and Learning Resources

Over the past year I have given a number of talks and presentations on the New Zealand Wars to a variety of audiences.

I have provided links to a few of these presentations that are available online here for anyone wanting to learn more about these defining conflicts.

My books, The New Zealand Wars/Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa and The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000, are also both available to purchase as e-books during the current lock-down, either directly from publisher Bridget Williams Books or from the usual online e-book outlets.

Many New Zealand libraries will also provide access to these works through the various Bridget Williams Books digital collections. Check the eLibrary section of your local library.

Michael King Memorial Lecture, May 2019

The New Zealand Wars/Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa was launched at the Auckland Writers Festival in May 2019, where I was honoured to be invited to deliver the prestigious Michael King Memorial Lecture before a very large audience.

Click h…