The New Zealand Wars is a powerful revisionist history. Revealing the enormous tactical and military skill of Maori, and the inability of the 'Victorian interpretation of racial conflict' to acknowledge those qualities, this account of the New Zealand Wars changed how the country's history was understood. Belich undertakes a complete reinterpretation of the crucial episode in New Zealand history and the result is a very different picture from the one previously given in historical works. Maori, in this new 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 Maori resistance was an innovative military system, the modern pa, 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.' Here, Belich sets out to show how historical distortions have arisen over time and revises our understanding of New Zealand history by using fresh evidence and a systematic re-analysis of old evidence.… (more)
This book rewrites our understanding of the wars between Maori and Pakeha, and of colonial warfare in general. It is the inspiration for a five-part documentary series of the same name written and presented by the author James Belich.