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Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Groove Book Report: 'A Short History of New Zealand Wars' by Gordon McLauchlan Penguin, $29.95

Following the ongoing success of A Short History of New Zealand, Great Tales of New Zealand History and Great Tales of Rural New Zealand - all reprinted and still going strong - Gordon McLauchlan has turned his masterful storytelling skills to one of the most important periods in this country's history. Published to coincide with New Zealand's first national day commemorating the wars on 28 October, this insightful and accessible book will be of interest to New Zealanders wanting to find out more about the New Zealand wars and the Maori struggle over land and political power (rangatiratanga) and their consequences for our country without having to wade through heavy tomes

Gordon McLauchlan was born in Dunedin and is well known to many New Zealanders as a tv presenter, radio announcer, journalist and author.

His latest book, A Short History of New Zealand Wars, has also been published in time for October 28, the first annual day of commemoration of the New Zealand land wars. His book is an authentic but informal and personal history.

He acknowledges up front that many New Zealanders of his 'era' were almost totally unaware of the significant moments of our own history.  He also notes that while that was the case most school kids back then could tell you the origins of WWI and the order of kings of queens in the English monarchy.  Yet they had no clues about the battle of Gate Pa or the significance of the first use of trench in the battles around Ruapekapeka.

He also acknowledges that it was because of this lack of knowledge that many conservative, grumpy 'white' people of his age found it hard to understand the consequential protests at Bastion Point or event the hikoi led by Dame Whina Cooper.  They certainly did not understand the sense of loss and the emotions that came about during the heated discussions in the Maori Land Courts an then the resulting rulings of the Waitangi Tribunal.  Many Maori, especially those still living in those regions, knew differently because the stories of what happened had been passed down from generation to generation.  For them history is alive, not a thing of the past.

McLauchlan is not out to prove a point or scratch at the scabs of old wounds.  He simply wants to tell the stories around the events such as the battles and the perceived reasons for them starting.  He relies a lot on the works of Jamie Belich, Dame Anne Salmond, Michael King and others to distill all that, usually academic information, down into smaller chunks , easily digested by those of us who are not practicing academics.  His book
gives an overarching, but concise, exploration of the struggle between Maori and the colonial powers over governance issues, and the consequences for Aotearoa.

His previous books include Great Tales from Rural New Zealand (2016); Great Tales from New Zealand History which has been in print since 2004; The Passionless People Revisited (2012); and A Short History of New Zealand (2014).  He was also editor-in-chief of The New Zealand Encyclopedia for 10 years.

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