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The New Zealand Wars by Matthew Wright


Sometimes the presentation of our history seems that the path to our current situation in New Zealand was paved with gold. That wasn’t the case. The long interminable struggle for Māori was brought to the fore with the New Zealand Wars or Land Wars as they are sometimes referred to.


Matthew Wright is a gifted and thoroughly respected historian in New Zealand with an array of historical books capturing the good and the bad of the timeline of our past. This book The New Zealand Wars is aimed at a younger audience (perhaps secondary school) who may be introduced to this period of history at college. One can imagine this book becoming required reading for history classes around the country.


As the text develops, the historical relevance of this era becomes painfully clear. Both sides felt legitimate grievances and fought courageously for what they believed. It was the might of the British infantry that ultimately overwhelmed the Māori battalions but the power of the technologically enhanced Western troops didn’t always mean having the upper hand. In many of the battles it was the sheer grit and determination of the Māori contingent that led to some decisive victories.


The style of writing is such that the stories emerge as a narrative rather than a series of dates and events. The story is told using plain English and connects troublesome concepts with simple definition and logical reasoning. Clearly Wright is an expert at both the historical significance and the clarity of passing on this information.


The NZ Series, of which this is one of five titles, offers a view to New Zealand’s various aspects of importance from Rush to Riches and Pioneering Women. This title The New Zealand Wars offers a clear and concise view of the historical elements with no bias towards either side. Instead it highlights the wants and and needs of both the European and the Māori forces and several key battles that occurred during this time.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Oratia Books