Gordon McLauchlan is the author of more than twenty books, and his latest book is a very accessible history of the New Zealand Wars with a great deal of insight into this troubled time.
‘What I have tried to do here is to write a short, accessible story of the New Zealand wars in the hope that a wider range of people will gain some understanding of what happened here in the nineteenth century and built it into their understanding of who New Zealanders are and where we have failed and where we have triumphed,’ writes Gordon in his introduction. I believe he has succeeded admirably in his aims.
The opening chapter puts the New Zealand wars in the context of their time. Firstly, with the dreadful loss of life amongst Maori that was inflicted during the Musket Wars of the 1820s. Secondly, the British Empire was at its peak of power and continuing to expand into other countries. White settlers came to New Zealand seeking a better life for themselves, but skirmishes between Maori and Pakeha became inevitable when it came to problems over land ownership, before becoming full out war in some areas. Gordon McLauchlan goes into the reasons for the struggle between Maori and the colonial powers, the major battles and the consequences for New Zealand afterward.
Gordon also brings to life the key players during this time and examines the way the British consistently underestimated the ‘savages’ and their fighting abilities – where in fact, the Maori were disciplined, strategic fighters and with formidable pa defences. This is a history of misunderstandings and conflict, fierce battles and terrible utu, but also bravery and people doing their best to achieve peace. It’s a fascinating read and a fabulous introduction to this period of New Zealand history.
Bateman, RRP 29.99