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Showing posts from July, 2020

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

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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…