Tuesday, 27 October 2015

On Writing History, Colonization and Development in New Zealand between 1769 and 1900: The Seeds of Rangiatea

By  Ian Pool, Emeritus Professor, University of Waikato
Vincent O’Malley has generously made space available to me for a guest-blog in his series. I should mention, even before I start, that I owe a lot to Vincent’s patient responses to my questions and other forms of help in writing my book.

Marching into the specialised territory of real historians is always a challenge for those of us who are on the fringes of the discipline.  In New Zealand this is particularly true, as Aotearoa has a significant corpus of powerful historical research – focused, technical monographs on many topics; elegantly written general narratives in the best humanities’ traditions;  and broader annales-type studies. In sum, I owe a large debt to historians. Above all, historians have carefully documented the 19th century, for example , its prime and momentous events, the key actors and their actions, the constitutional trends, the interactions of Pākehā and Māori (albeit mainly from Pākehā records), and so on. Additionally, also from the “outfield”, Richard Boast’s legal history is an authoritative voice on the policies and mechanics of Māori land loss. Much, of course, remains to done, and I hope that my book stimulates this. 

My research covers three axes: (i) population, (ii) development and (iii) their broader contexts. For the third of these I turned, with confidence, to the extant history by the “conventional historians”,  as represented by my blog-host’s own work both on pre- and post-Waitangi issues.  This, I thought, would be the easiest and most enjoyable aspect of my work. When I last drew systematically on historical research for my 1991 book Te Iwi Maori, I was impressed by what I had found. But the world had changed since 1991 – for the worse. Instead of a fast and comfortable passage, I have had to navigate through waters churned up by what I have called  “tabloid historians”. In its place “tabloidism”,  making history popular, is no bad thing, but also it must adhere to standards set by the discipline. 

Perhaps inspired by the American neo-con “culture war” or the revisionist Australian “history wars”, we have seen a wave of “historical” studies that have emphasised the lurid, very often inaccurately, particularly for the pre-Waitangi period. These “histories” rely on selected European sources. William Jennings seems to be that rare and patient author who has read 2000 documents of the Marist Brothers in mid-19th century French; “tabloid histories” even seem to by-pass a treasure trove of first-hand observations in the 1838 Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords. By contrast, Victorian sources, often written well after Waitangi by people who had not been there but seemingly accepted uncritically by “Tabloidists”, often demonised Māori to justify their displacement and deprivation, arguing that the British were not responsible. Moreover, “Tabloidists” and their mentors – read Keith Windschuttle on Anne Salmond, a scurrilous and inaccurate attack – avowedly eschew Māori sources as “unreliable”.  Unfortunately, as Bain Attwood found when he confronted Windschutle – that so-called  “John Howard intellectual” – documenting a detailed rebuttal is a tedious process. Thus, I thought long and hard before I took on this challenge. Finally, I did so for three reasons: 

1. “Tabloidists” throw population data around with a total lack of care and little knowledge about what are drivers, and what are the maxima and minima of reported demographic trends – that is, what is feasible: I had the tools to set the record straight and felt obliged to do so (see below). 

2. “Tabloidist” soundbites and other pronouncements unjustly demonise Māori as stone-age “savages” – contrasting them with a “superior race”,  the British. They were were busily “clearing” the Scots and Irish from their lands, brutally putting down the Indian Mutiny and about to use Maxim guns on Mahdi’s poorly armed cavalry at Omdurman, a slaughter applauded by young Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, these notions have entered the public dialogue, right up to the highest levels – one only has to think of Key’s comments in 2014, to say nothing of Don Brash’s, Paul Holmes’, Michael Laws’ and others.

3. Perhaps most importantly, the attention of the thinking public has been drawn away from the “everyday story” of Māori life, especially pre-1840. Tumult and savagery are the profiled events. Yet, most Māori were in fact engaged in  “the factors of production and reproduction”. Even the emblematic and terrible “Musket Wars” were spotty in terms of geographic distribution and periodicity, probably more significant for population redistribution than for lethality. Here I was fortunate in having access to Ron Crosby’s incredibly detailed book; Michael King’s endorsement of Crosby is truly justified. Crosby also carefully cross-checked my parsing of his book – a very generous act. Despite one “tabloidist” arguing that from 1850 Māori benefited from a Pax Britannica, the New Zealand Wars, especially those of the 1860s, were both highly lethal and caused massive displacements, besides finally destroying most of Māori commercial horticulture. Moreover, from a military standpoint as James Belich has shown, the British resorted to massive force: 27% of all Imperial troops outside Britain and India were in New Zealand at one stage, far outnumbering the Māori warriors pitted against them, and engaging in all the actions that were to characterise colonial wars (eg “scorched earth” tactics in the Urewera in the late 1860s). Even modest protest – the 1899 Rawene Dog Tax “War” – saw military might (eg a naval ship, machine guns) brought to bear. And the attack on pacifist Parihaka by 1600 armed militia and police, led by the Native Minister, Bryce, must be New Zealand’s lowest moment.

To analyse Māori population trends I have drawn on well-tested methodologies (empirically as well as mathematically), grounded in demographic theory, plus the vast knowledge-base about how population dynamics and structures change over time, including what are limits to demographic trends. For dynamics (births and deaths), the so-called “indirect estimation techniques” of demography are robust and very useful. They are employed across the entire Third World to gain basic vital rates where data are inadequate, and thus the statistics used for almost all macro-level social and economic planning. But the rates merely provide skeletons, allowing hypothesis-building. I hope these postulates will be investigated in depth using the tools of expository research, particularly by historians with access to the “iwi” and “hapu” books written in Māori in the 19th century. 

This becomes even more important when one turns to the third aspect of my work: development. I have explored this mainly using secondary sources. But, until there is detailed expository analysis, my research on what “Mr and Mrs Everyday Māori” were doing in the 19th century must remain speculative. Despite the tumult of the inter-tribal wars and other dislocations due to contact and by the invasion of pathogens, against which Māori had no previous exposure and thus no resistance, everyday life continued and, in some ways, Māori prospered. Māori adopted and adapted new foods, tools and other technologies: I call these “clip-ons” to their economic system. But, they also built on their own skills and structures, such as the trading networks from the far north to the far south. By 1840 they were at a “take-off point” for serious development. They also brought a very tangible, huge dowry to the Waitangi Treaty table – all their land, their economy and their vibrant international trading ventures. What did the British bring? Intangible advantages of joining the British Empire?

This bring me to the end of my story. By 1897 (Queen Victoria’s Jubilee), Māori were in an “under-development trap”. They were barely surviving because of introduced disease. This was, of course, an unintended consequence of contact and colonisation. Given the state of 19th century health sciences, even had they wanted to, the settlers had no real means of  improving Māori health. But the gradual natural gains in resistance through exposure to disease were delayed for Māori because of the “development of [their] under-development” by their brutal displacement from their major capital base – land (to use Thomas Piketty’s definition of capital). But Māori did not have access to the financial capital that could allow them to escape this trap.

The sequel, which I am now working on, will explore their “escape”, first by improved survival, and later, but only partially, by building an asset base. 

[Colonization and Development in New Zealand between 1769 and 1900: The Seeds of Rangiatea is published by Springer]

Monday, 19 October 2015

Colonization and Development in New Zealand between 1769 and 1900: The Seeds of Rangiatea

Emeritus Professor Ian Pool of the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, University of Waikato, is an acclaimed demographer who has worked across Asia, Africa and the Pacific over many decades, including for the United Nations. Within New Zealand he is particularly known for his immense contribution to the demographic history of Māori. His work Te Iwi Maori: A New Zealand Population Past, Present, and Projected has been hugely influential since it was first published in 1991 and has been especially important in helping those of us interested in understanding the impact of colonisation on Māori to consider the demographic dimension to this story. Now, some two decades later, Professor Pool has returned to explore this theme, though with a wider focus on issues of development.

Colonization and Development in New Zealand between 1769 and 1900: The Seeds of Rangiatea is published by Springer, from whose website the following synopsis is taken.

This book details the interactions between the Seeds of Rangiatea, New Zealand’s Māori people of Polynesian origin, and Europe from 1769 to 1900. It provides a case-study of the way Imperial era contact and colonization negatively affected naturally evolving demographic/epidemiologic transitions and imposed economic conditions that thwarted development by precursor peoples, wherever European expansion occurred. In doing so, it questions the applicability of conventional models for analyses of colonial histories of population/health and of development.

The book focuses on, and synthesizes, the most critical parts of the story, the health and population trends, and the economic and social development of Māori. It adopts demographic methodologies, most typically used in developing countries, which allow the mapping of broad changes in Māori society, particularly their survival as a people.

The book raises general theoretical questions about how populations react to the introduction of diseases to which they have no natural immunity. Another more general theoretical issue is what happens when one society’s development processes are superseded by those of some more powerful force, whether an imperial power or a modern-day agency, which has ingrained ideas about objectives and strategies for development. Finally, it explores how health and development interact.

The Māori experience of contact and colonization, lasting from 1769 to circa 1900, narrated here, is an all too familiar story for many other territories and populations, Natives and former colonists. This book provides a case-study with wider ramifications for theory in colonial history, development studies, demography, anthropology and other fields.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Terra Nullius New Zealand-style? The Curious Case of Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi is a 543-acre island that is today a wildlife sanctuary. Located in the Hauraki Gulf, just a few kilometres from the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, the island is a popular destination for daytrippers taking the ferry from Auckland. Besides abundant wildlife (including kiwi, kokako and takahe), the island also boasts New Zealand’s oldest working lighthouse (constructed in 1864). 

Tiritiri Matangi Lighthouse

The island was also the focus of a baffling and quite extraordinary Native Land Court decision in 1866, when the Māori claimants found themselves ranged against the Crown, which claimed the island on the basis of an 1841 deed of purchase. Although the court quite rightly rejected this claim (since the deed made no reference to the island), it nevertheless awarded the island to the Crown. That was despite declaring that it was ‘unable to discover the origins of the Crown’s title, or by what means the native title has been extinguished’.

It did so, according to the judgment, because it found the Māori claim to the island insufficiently strong to eject the Crown from its possession of Tiritiri Matangi Island. And so, as Richard Boast has pointed out, the court appears to have relied on the English common law rules regarding possession in reaching this conclusion (in itself revealing, given the court was supposed to determine ownership ‘according to Native custom’). The Crown had already constructed the lighthouse and in the court’s view this gave the Crown possession. 

Francis Dart Fenton, first Chief Judge of the Native Land Court, PAColl-7489-01, ATL

That decision ignored a great deal of Māori testimony regarding their own use of the island. Although no longer permanently occupied by the mid-nineteenth century, multiple witnesses told the court that they regularly visited Tiritiri Matangi to collect kaimoana and fish or to hunt pigs. Chief Judge Fenton’s assertion that this constituted a weak claim to ownership of the island – that Māori did not really occupy or utilise Tiritiri Matangi – did not reflect customary Māori law.

Instead, I would argue that the court’s Tiritiri Matangi judgment was influenced by the doctrine of terra nullius (literally, ‘nobody’s land’) that held that seasonal fishing or hunting was not consistent with European forms of ownership. Tiritiri Matangi was deemed to be vacant land because Māori did not expend capital and labour on the island to a sufficient extent to be recognised as owners. Building a lighthouse was considered evidence of occupation. Collecting shellfish was not.

Tiritiri Matangi Island

New Zealanders tend to assume that terra nullius was a legal doctrine applied in respect of Australia but having no bearing on our own history. But there are other examples where the influence of such ideas can be seen, including the Crown’s willingness to proclaim British sovereignty over the South Island in May 1840 by right of discovery, despite knowing full well that Māori occupied the island (the island was subsequently claimed by right of cession when Thomas Bunbury obtained the signatures of a number of South Island chiefs to the Treaty of Waitangi).

That was reflected further in the derisory prices and reserves awarded Ngāi Tahu in the series of Crown purchases that followed. Although Ngāi Tahu ownership was nominally recognised, a common assumption was that they too small in number and too ‘uncivilised’ to have anything more than a weak claim to the land.

In the case of Tiritiri Matangi, the court rejected Māori claims outright, refusing to recognise customary Māori ownership or occupation of the island. I wonder just how many of the estimated 20,000 plus annual visitors to the island are aware of this more troubling history of the legalised land grab that saw it handed over to the Crown.

Postscript: There is more to this story, including subsequent Māori petitions and complaints over the court’s judgment. I discuss the Tiritiri Matangi case at length in Beyond the Imperial Frontier:The Contest for Colonial New Zealand (2104), from which the short summary above is drawn.