The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict
Revealing the enormous tactical and military skill of Maori, and the inability of 'Victorian interpretation' 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. Maori, 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 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.' First published in 1986, James Belich's groundbreaking book reshaped our understanding of the 'bitter and bloody struggles' between Maori and Pakeha in the New Zealand Wars. This bestselling classic of New Zealand history is a must-read - and Belich's larger argument about the impact of historical interpretation resonates today.
James Belich's book is a tour de force. In a brilliant new analysis, he demolishes the received wisdom of the course and outcome of the New Zealand Wars... It is a vigorous and splendidly stylish contribution to our historiography. - The New Zealand Listener
James Belich was born in Wellington in 1956 and took his BA and MA degrees in history at Victoria University. He completed a doctorate at Oxford in 1981 while on a Rhodes Scholarship and has taught at the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington. Belich is the author of numerous books, including Making Peoples (1996), Paradise Reforged (2001) and Replenishing the Earth (2009), and is currently Beit Professor of Imperial and Commonwealth History at Oxford University and director of the Oxford Centre for Global History.