First official copy of 'The Great War for New Zealand' presented to King Tuheitia

Author Vincent O'Malley presents King Tuheitia with the first official copy of The Great War for New Zealand. Image courtesy Waahi Paa (Bridget Williams Books / Rhys Palmer).

The first single-volume history of the Waikato War since 1879 was presented to King Tuheitia at the Waahi Poukai, Saturday 8 October. The Great War for New Zealand by Vincent O’Malley is already being hailed as a landmark book for all New Zealanders on publication.

As Rahui Papa, Chairman, Te Arataura, Waikato-Tainui observes: ‘Vincent O’Malley’s work … shines a spotlight on a dark period of our collective past and brings it into a modern conversation for the consideration of New Zealand’s future’.

Professor James Belich, Beit Professor of Imperial and Commonwealth History, University of Oxford, notes that ‘the Waikato War was the most decisive in New Zealand’s history, but has long been overshadowed by bigger wars overseas. Now Vincent O’Malley gives the traumatic conflict its due.’

Detailed, prodigiously researched and highly readable, it brings into the light the most brutal and influential conflict in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history. A monumental account of the war in the Waikato in 1863–64, the book traverses 200 years to trace both the conflict’s origins and its aftermath: from first encounters between Māori and Pākehā in the Waikato region in the early nineteenth century through to settlement and apology in the late twentieth century.

Author Vincent O'Malley addresses the Waahi Poukai, Saturday 8 October. Image courtesy Waahi Paa (Bridget Williams Books / Rhys Palmer).

O’Malley, a leading historian, argues with good cause that the Waikato War, rather than Gallipoli or the Western Front, is the defining conflict in our history. The Great War for New Zealand lays out how the war set back Māori and Pākehā relations by several generations and allowed the colonial government of the day to begin to assert the kind of real control over the country that had eluded it since 1840.

O’Malley spoke at the book’s launch at the Poukai, Saturday 8 October. ‘It is a history that many Pākehā have preferred to ignore over the years, while you have never forgotten,’ he told the gathering of about 400 people. ‘But it is time as a nation that we remember. Me maumahara tātou – we must remember.’ O’Malley said it was time New Zealanders learned about this history that Tainui and other iwi have carried alone for so many generations.

Rahui Papa, Chairman, Te Arataura, Waikato-Tainui, welcomed the book at the Poukai saying it reflected some of the hardest times Waikato-Tainui has experienced. ‘It brings all those dark pieces of history into a world of light,’ he said. ‘We have a goal to utilise the pages of this book in our school curriculum so that every child can experience the history that is truly our New Zealand history. The truth is finally going to be let loose.'

Author Vincent O'Malley signs books at the Waahi Poukai with (l-r) Mihirawhiti Searancke, Ratau Turner (holding book) and Pawa Raihe. Image courtesy Waahi Paa (Bridget Williams Books / Rhys Palmer).


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