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A Concise History of New Zealand by Philippa…
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A Concise History of New Zealand

by Philippa Mein Smith

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A Concise History of New Zealand would probably be better titled “A Concise History of New Zealand Politics”. After a good initial chapter on New Zealand geological history, there’s very little on pre-contact Maori, natural features, natural history, economy (except as it relates to politics), agriculture, industry, transportation, etc.

The scanty discussion of pre-contact history intrigues me; the consensus date for Maori arrival is around 1200 AD, hence most New Zealand history is Maori. I wonder if it’s politically incorrect to inquire too deeply into Maori history, as it is with a lot of Native American groups. The book gives a couple of Maori arrival myths, but no results of archaeological or anthropological research. There’s a one-sentence mention of the extinction of the moa avifauna, with the grudging admission that the Maori might have done it – rather than “climate change”. Discussion of Maori affairs makes up a substantial part of the text. Smith frequently uses Maori words, which is a little disconcerting at first – there are no in-line definitions – but a glossary makes up for it.


The lack of attention to areas other than politics leaves a lot of questions. Is there oil, coal, or gas in New Zealand? Other mineral resources? Being proudly “nuclear free”, where does New Zealand expect to get its energy (and why isn’t Ernest Rutherford mentioned anywhere in the book)? Earthquake, tsunami and volcano preparedness would seem to be important topics but are not mentioned. Transportation gets little mention; are there any railroads in New Zealand? I assume so, but you wouldn’t learn it here. The pull of the recent is obvious; half the book discusses the last 80 years of New Zealand political history. Author Philippa Mein Smith is of a general liberal bent, although grudgingly admitting that recent market-oriented reforms (“Rogernomics”) were beneficial, or at least not a bad as feared.


Readable enough, and I suppose any book that makes you interested in finding out more has done its job. Still, I could have done with a little less about the Lead Maternity Center Scheme and some more on industry, mining, transportation and energy. Part of a series; I wonder if the other “Concise Histories” are in the same bent. ( )
1 vote setnahkt | Dec 1, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521542286, Paperback)

In this new account of New Zealand's history, Philippa Mein Smith considers the rugged and dynamic land from its break from Gondwana 80 million years ago to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Mein Smith highlights the effects of the country's small size and isolation, from late settlement by Polynesian voyagers, very late colonization and settlement by Europeans, and the interactions that made these people Maori and Pakeha, to struggles over land, and efforts through time to manage global forces. Placing New Zealand in its global and regional context, the book reveals its links to Britain, despite being immersed in the Pacific, and part of Australasia. Distinctively, it reveals key moments contributing to the founding of the country's national myths.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:44 -0400)

New Zealand was the last major landmass, other than Antarctica, to be settled by humans. This new account of New Zealand's history considers this dynamic land from its break from Gondwana 80 million years ago to the beginning of the twenty-first century.… (more)

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