A captivating telling, Sasha Maclean
A Short History of the New Zealand Wars
September 4, 2020
A Short History of the New Zealand Wars is a captivating telling of the violent conflicts between Māori and Pākehā through one of the most important periods in New Zealand’s history. The language is cleverly used to draw in the reader’s attention. Whilst being easy to read and entertaining, it is also packed with facts and history, making this a resource for research. The comprehensive timeline and index at the front and back of the book respectively are a fast source of valuable information.
One thing I noticed right at the beginning of the book, in the introduction, was how little people knew about the Land Wars for a century after the treaty was signed. McLauchlan describes his school days, learning about the European side of the world wars but never anything about the Land Wars or what the Treaty meant. The author also describes his bewilderment about how little anyone knew about the Land Wars, while nowadays, New Zealand history has become a compulsory part of our school curriculum.
After the introduction and first chapter, which are a broad overview of New Zealand’s wars, the next chapters specialise in a certain region’s wars. They cover the wars up north, from Hone Heke chopping down the flagpole to disagreements over land in Taranaki, to the British invasion of the Waikato. Later chapters focus on the Bay of Plenty, and there even is a chapter about two of the greatest warriors: Riwha Tītokowaru in Taranaki and Wanganui, and Te Kooti Arikirangi in Poverty Bay and the Uruweras.
The wars in the north are mostly centered on Hone Heke and the infamous flagpole. This chapter describes Hone Heke cutting down the flagpole many times, before an ally sent an attack on the British warship, Hazard. While the forces left the flagstaff blockhouse, leaving it undermanned, Hone Heke launched an assault, killing the soldiers left inside and destroying the flagstaff once again. This chapter is extraordinarily told, with intriguing language.
Another particularly interesting chapter is the one concerning the war in Taranaki. War in Taranaki was due to land disagreements, as settlers to New Plymouth wanted to buy more and more land as the gap between the number of Pākehā and the number of Māori in the region grew wider. The land the settlers especially wanted was the land around the Waitara area. Something I found interesting about this chapter was how storms and lack of shelter stopped Captain Cook from landing in Taranaki, therefore Taranaki had no contact with Pākehā until the 1820s.
In my opinion, this book is a book that should be read by all young New Zealanders, so everyone can learn and share the history of our country and pass it down to younger generations. This book is wonderfully compact, easy to read, entertaining and gripping. McLauchlan has created a masterpiece, capturing the stories, facts and history of the New Zealand Wars. I would recommend this book to ages 11-19 (YA age) but A Short History of the New Zealand Wars could be enjoyed by interested audiences of a much older or younger age.
– Sasha Maclean is 12 years old and a student at Sacred Heart Girl’s College, New Plymouth.