The New Zealand Wars: Stories of Friendship, Loyalty and Betrayal
Free Public Lecture
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre
T: 0434 142 369
In 1863, diggers in Bendigo, Ballarat and Mt Alexander and clerks in Melbourne were being offered land grants as inducements to cross the Tasman and fight against Māori in the Waikato Militia. With the war now two months old, Māori were almost always depicted as rebellious savages by correspondents in the Victorian press. Over 1,200 signed up from Victoria alone. Suppressing so-called rebellions and confiscating land was a common strategy in England’s imperial expansion. It was just another of ‘England’s little wars’, as the missionary, Octavius Hadfield, had called the earlier campaign in Taranaki.
But this was not supposed to happen in New Zealand. New Zealand was to be different from all those European colonising enterprises that had driven Aboriginal peoples to near extinction. The colony was created in 1840, at a humanitarian moment, when the needs and rights of Indigenous communities were to be given a genuine priority in British policy making. The moment lasted long enough for the intervention in New Zealand to be framed in the benevolent provisions of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, and in promises and policies aimed at protecting Māori from colonists. Yet two decades later, those colonists were engaged in suppressing Māori independence with the aid of an imperial military force and internationally recruited militia.
This lecture will consider the failure of humanitarianism in New Zealand. It will consider humanitarianism not just as a series of ideas, but as a network of friendships and personal connections, which linked individual Māori to missionaries and European political figures. While some of these relationships were sufficiently robust to continue up until 1863, a great many others collapsed. Exploring both successful and failed relationships between Māori and Europeans in New Zealand helps us to understand why the outbreak of war again in 1863 was described by many of its victims as a betrayal, a betrayal of the promises 1840, and betrayal by people who had once been friends.
The Ernest Scott Annual Lecture is presented by Michael Belgrave, winner of the 2018 Ernest Scott prize in History for his book Dancing with the King (AUP 2017).