Thursday, 27 February 2020

Webinar: Owning Our History: The New Zealand Wars

Kaikōrero / Speakers: Joanna Kidman and Vincent O'Malley
Ringa hāpai / Chair: Susan Healy

When Ōtorohanga College pupils petitioned Parliament in 2015, calling for a national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars, they sparked a vital debate about memory, identity and history.

How do New Zealanders remember and forget difficult events in our colonial past? Why are some conflicts publicly remembered while others are forgotten or overlooked? And who decides?
Now that New Zealand history will be taught in all schools from 2022, these questions become vitally important.

We argue that iwi and hapū need to be at the forefront of conversations around this new curriculum and that connecting with mana whenua histories will empower rangatahi to better understand the places they call home.

Starts on:
Sunday, 22 March 2020 at 12:00 PM NZDT
Ends on:
Sunday, 22 March 2020 at 1:00 PM NZDT 
To register for this free webinar, part of the Te Tiriti-Based Futures + Anti-Racism 2020 Online Conference, featuring more than 50 speakers over ten days, visit this page.  

Sunday, 19 January 2020

National Portrait

His monumental 2016 book about the 1863-64 war in Waikato, The Great War for New Zealand, has now been followed by a smaller, more accessible, illustrated account, The New Zealand Wars Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa. Ever wondered about the wars and why they happened? This is the ideal place to start. 

Essentially, the New Zealand Wars stretched across nearly 30 years, from 1845 to 1872, ranging from the Bay of Islands in the north to Wairau, near Blenheim, in the south, with a lot of action in Waikato and Taranaki. Some individual stories are better known than others: the messianic defiance of Te Kooti and Titokowaru​, Hone Heke and his repeated sabotage of British flagstaffs, the Parihaka tragedy of 1881 that was a post-script of sorts. 

The best guess for overall casualties is said to be 4250 Māori casualties – 2000 "hostile" Māori killed, 2000 wounded and 250 "friendly" Māori killed. An unknown number of "friendly" Māori were injured. Of the British and colonial troops, 560 were killed and 1050 wounded, making the total on both sides at least 5860. 

The Māori population was about 59,000 nationally in 1857-58 but some regions were more affected than others. As many as one in 10 Māori in Tūranga, the area around Gisborne, were killed or wounded in one week in 1865. 

There is a lasting legacy as well. The relative depression of Northland since the wars, the sudden dominance of Auckland, the lasting economic and cultural pain of land confiscations, the end of a Māori-Pākehā partnership – all these can be traced to the wars. As O'Malley says in the book, "any discussion of contemporary Māori poverty that fails to acknowledge the long history of invasion, dispossession and confiscation is missing a vital part of the story".

Read more here.

Monday, 9 December 2019

NZ Wars: Stories of Waitara

Produced by Great Southern Television for RNZ, Stories of Waitara was released on the Rā Maumahara marked on the 28th October this year at Ōwae Marae in Taranaki.

Created and presented by Mihingarangi Forbes, it follows on from the award-winning Stories of Ruapekapeka and tells the stories of the first Taranaki War of 1860-61, drawing on Te Ātiawa tribal historians and experts and with input from me.


It also features a series of extended interviews and other clips. Here is the full sit-down interview with me.

And some further scenes visiting various monuments and memorials connected with the wars and reflecting on what they tell us about how this history has been remembered within Taranaki.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Teaching New Zealand History

The Education Gazette asked me to comment on the recent announcement that New Zealand history will soon be taught in all schools.


The announcement that New Zealand’s histories will be taught in all schools by 2022 is a crucial step in ensuring future generations leave school with at least some level of understanding of our nation’s past – including “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, as Rahui Papa of Waikato-Tainui said at the time.

But it also opens up important discussions around what exactly should be taught and how.

For me, a vital first principle is that iwi and hapū are at the forefront of those conversations.

Connecting with mana whenua history will empower rangatahi to better understand the places they call home.

Speaking to students at Otago Girls' High School, October 2019

Begin close to home

Students should be encouraged to engage with the histories of their own communities, but without forgetting the wider context.

Rangatahi in the Gisborne district, for example, should learn about the 1865 siege of Waerenga-a-Hika. But they should also be equipped with the skills to understand how this fits in with the bigger picture of the New Zealand Wars as a whole.

Those conflicts were defining ones in our nation’s history and deserve to be prominent in The New Zealand Curriculum. Many other areas also warrant attention.

Let the conversations begin.

Importance of critical thinking

In terms of how these different topics are taught, it is less a case of filling young minds with endless lists of dates and other facts than equipping them with the critical thinking skills to understand how broad historical processes played out in New Zealand.

Knowing exactly when particular events took place is ultimately less important than understanding why they still matter today. Analysing and critiquing historical sources, primary and secondary, should be a core part of that.

Site visits to places of importance and inquiry-led student activities are also important.

Many dedicated teachers are already leading the way with the teaching of New Zealand’s histories in innovative and inspirational ways.

The challenge now is to put the systems and support in place to roll this out across all schools. We know that many rangatahi have been calling for this for some time.

Now is the time to deliver.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The New Zealand Wars: Vincent O'Malley in discussion with Mihingarangi Forbes

The New Zealand Wars were a series of conflicts fought between the Crown and various Maori groups between 1845 and 1872. Profoundly shaping the course and direction of our nation's history, the wars have been neglected, misrepresented and have had little hold on the popular imagination.

Puawai Cairns (Te Papa) introducing the speakers

 Today, however, interest in the wars is reviving, in part due to books like The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa published earlier this year by Bridget Williams Books. Mihingarangi Forbes interviews the historian Vincent O'Malley about the stories of wartime in front of an audience at Te Papa.


To listen to the full conversation, click here.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa: Te Papa Event

Join journalist Mihingarangi Forbes, and historian and author Vincent O'Malley, as they explore the ongoing impact of the New Zealand Wars.

  • When: Sun 6 Oct 2019, 3.00pm–5.00pm
  • Where: Rongomaraeroa (Te Marae), Level 4, Te Papa
  • Cost: Free
The New Zealand Wars were a series of conflicts fought between the Crown and various Māori groups between 1845 and 1872.

These wars profoundly shaped the course and direction of our nation’s history. The wars are an integral part of the New Zealand story but we have not always cared to remember or acknowledge them. Today, however, interest in the wars is resurgent.

Join award-winning journalist Mihingarangi Forbes and acclaimed historian Vincent O'Malley (author of best-selling histories The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa (link is external) and The Great War for New Zealand (link is external)) as they explore the ongoing impact of these defining conflicts.

This event takes place in advance of the Rā Maumahara National Day of Commemoration for the New Zealand Wars.


3–4pm, Discussion with Mihingarangi Forbes and author Vincent O’Malley
4–5pm, Book sales

Following the event Vincent will be available for book signing.

Friday, 9 August 2019

WORD Christchurch Events

How can we see where we’re going, if we don’t know where we’ve been? In his recent Michael King Memorial Lecture, historian Vincent O’Malley stressed the importance of teaching the bloody story of the New Zealand Wars in our schools, to understand today’s society, and recently gave historical context to the Ihumātao dispute in The Spinoff.

Simon Winchester has spent his career bringing to life stories from the past, and Sacha McMeeking’s research interests lie in Māori futures, which are inextricably linked to history. Join them for a lively conversation about the importance of owning our history, the good and the bad, in order to look to the future. Chaired by Peter Field.

Saturday 31 August, 1.00–2.00 p.m.
The Piano

Tickets $20, available from WORD Christchurch.


Vincent O'Malley: The New Zealand Wars

The New Zealand Wars profoundly shaped the course and direction of our nation’s history. Fought between the Crown and various groups of Māori between 1845 and 1872, remnants and reminders from these conflicts and their aftermath can be found all over the country. The wars are an integral part of the New Zealand story but we have not always cared to remember or acknowledge them.

Vincent O’Malley discusses his latest book on the causes, events and consequences of the New Zealand Wars (Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa) with Ngāi Tahu historian, Mike Stevens.

Saturday 31 August, 5.00–6.00 p.m.
The Piano

Tickets $20, available via WORD Christchurch.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Why we need to open up about past Māori and Pākehā conflict

From the New Zealand Listener, 25 May 2019

by Sally Blundell

Calls are growing for us to take a more honest look at our past, particularly the wars over land and power that shaped the country. 

It began with a single musket shot, fired perhaps by accident, in Wairau, near Nelson, in 1843. It ended with desultory gunfire in a steep and sodden gorge south of Waikaremoana in 1873.
Bookended by these two inglorious events, the New Zealand Wars claimed the lives of an estimated 2250 Māori and 560 British and colonial troops. Records are far from complete, but, including the wounded, the number of casualties could be more than 6000. The result was the transfer of nearly 1.5 million hectares of land into European hands, most commonly through the 1863 New Zealand Settlements Act. They changed the social, economic and political landscape forever.

Still, says Wellington historian Vincent O’Malley, we barely talk about it. Commemorations are few, many of the war sites are degraded and unmarked, the myth of a chivalrous and noble battle, sowing the seeds for the “best race relations in the world”, has been shattered. Today, students can go through school without learning any New Zealand history.

“Which is staggering to me,” says O’Malley. “This is our story, our history. It happened here, in this place, relatively recently, and it had profound consequences for what New Zealand would become. These were defining conflicts of New Zealand history and, as a nation, we need to take ownership of them.”

Read more at the New Zealand Listener

Monday, 17 June 2019

Talking New Zealand Wars History at the Marlborough Book Festival

I will be discussing New Zealand Wars history at two sessions of the Marlborough Book Festival early next month, the first featuring a cruise of the Marlborough Sounds, departing from Picton, and the second at the main festival venue in Blenheim the following day.

For both sessions I will be in conversation with local historian Ron Crosby, and discussing my most recent work, The New Zealand Wars/Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa as well as The Great War for New Zealand

Session details:

Our Heritage

- in conversation with Ron Crosby

8.45am-12pm, Friday 5 July, MV Odyssea Cruise (departing Marlborough Tour Company - Town Wharf #5, Picton Marina 9am), $125 
Come and cruise the beautiful Marlborough Sounds aboard Marlborough Tour Company's MV Odyssea. Enjoy brunch and gain insight into some of the lesser-known aspects of Aotearoa history, including the Wairau Afray, with Dr Vincent O’Malley in conversation with Marlborough-based historian Ron Crosby.

The New Zealand Wars

- in conversation with Ron Crosby

10am-11am, Saturday 6 July, ASB Theatre, 2 Hutcheson St, Blenheim, $20 
Following on from his best-selling The Great War For New Zealand, Waikato 1800-2000, Dr Vincent O’Malley’s new book released in May 2019, The New Zealand Wars, provides an essential account of the series of conflicts that profoundly shaped the course and direction of our nation’s history.
He talks with Marlborough-based historian Ron Crosby about the conflicts and their legacy, including the calamitous clash at Tuamarina known as the Wairau Affray.

Friday, 31 May 2019

New Zealand Wars, Land Wars, or Māori Wars?

The following extract from The New Zealand Wars/Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa first appeared in E-Tangata

What historians and others have called the wars has changed over time. Why is this of interest? Do names really matter?

Well, they do because they convey key messages about the nature of the wars, their causes and participants. For a long time, it was common to refer to this series of conflicts as “the Māori Wars”.
That was consistent with the British tendency to name wars after their enemies; for instance, the Boer War, the Zulu War, or the Indian Mutiny. But there are some obvious problems with such a label. For a start, it tends to sheet home responsibility for the wars to Māori, rendering the other combatants invisible.

In the 1960s, some historians tried to correct this by adopting the label “the Anglo–Māori Wars”. But this is also a problem, in that some Māori fought on the “Anglo” (that is, British or Crown) side. And given estimates that up to 40 per cent of the imperial troops who fought in New Zealand were Irish, the “Anglo” part was inaccurate too. So there are issues with any label that purports to accurately and succinctly describe those involved in the wars.

As historians began to delve deeper into the causes of the wars, some felt that the term “Land Wars” was more appropriate. It pointed the finger at the settlers, whose greed for land was highlighted as the fundamental factor behind the wars. This reflected a shifting historiography that was beginning to reject the older assumptions about the wars, in favour of a viewpoint more sympathetic towards Māori perspectives.

But later historians argued that the wars were about much more than just land — they were a conflict over the future of New Zealand as a whole. In 1986, historian James Belich revived “the New Zealand Wars” — a title employed by his predecessor James Cowan in the 1920s (and widely used in Britain and New Zealand in the 1860s to describe the conflicts, before it fell out of favour).
Cowan had been ahead of his time in favouring “the New Zealand Wars” — using that name was part of his effort to convince a sceptical Pākehā populace that their country had a history of its own worth remembering.

Although there have been a few attempts to challenge this since, the term “the New Zealand Wars” has mostly been favoured since the 1980s. It is a label that avoids mono-causal explanations for the wars and simplistic descriptions of those involved.

Among other alternatives, “New Zealand Colonial Wars”, “New Zealand Land Wars”, and even “New Zealand Civil Wars” are occasionally suggested.

Whether the wars meet the test for being described as civil is debatable. Until the start of the conflicts many Māori communities were largely self-governing, and not in practice part of the same political entity as settlers.

Nor was there a single Māori political entity. Most Māori communities continued to think and act mainly at a hapū level, with iwi assuming more importance through the course of the nineteenth century. Pan-tribal organisations, such as the King movement, could rarely claim to speak for all Māori.

To be a true civil war, members of the same iwi or hapū would have had to fight against one another. That did happen at various points during the wars, such as when rival sections of Ngāti Porou went to war with one another in 1865, but it was not a consistent feature of the wars as a whole.
We are on safer ground in referring to them as the New Zealand Wars/Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, the latter term familiar to Māori. They were also said to have had another name for these devastating conflicts: “Te Riri Pākehā” — “the white man’s anger”.