The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict

TitleThe New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1986
AuthorsBelich, James
Number of Pages396
PublisherAuckland University Press ; Oxford University Press
City, CountryAuckland; Oxford
Abstract

Revealing the enormous tactical and military skill of Māori, and the inability of the ‘Victorian interpretation of racial conflict’ to acknowledge those qualities, Belich’s account of the New Zealand Wars offered a very different picture from the one previously given in historical works. Māori, in Belich’s view, won the Northern War and stalemated the British in the Taranaki War of 1860–61 only to be defeated by 18,000 British troops in the Waikato War of 1863–64. The secret of effective Māori resistance was an innovative military system, the modern pā, a trench-and-bunker fortification of a sophistication not achieved in Europe until 1915. According to the author: ‘The degree of Maori success in all four major wars is still underestimated – even to the point where, in the case of one war, the wrong side is said to have won.’

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