Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars: A Visitors Guide
Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars: A Visitor's Guide
David Green 2010, Penguin, ISBN 9780143204183 208pp.
The New Zealand Wars of the nineteenth century still cast a long shadow over the twenty-first. Three decades of fighting across much of the North Island ensured Pakeha rule, but also enabled Maori survival.
This guidebook, heavily illustrated with photographs, artwork and maps, takes you on a journey of discovery, both by car and foot, through the often-ignored history that surrounds us.
Each chapter presents a guided tour of the theatre of war. The battlefields are located and described; the conflicts placed in context. These descriptions bring to life the bitter struggles that occurred.
These special places are where history happened, and should be remembered in honour of all those who fought to create our New Zealand.
Green takes readers on a journey through the sites of the wars, dealing with the main areas in their chronological order of when conflict started. Within each area the visit is in terms of a trip to all of the sites in a logical sequence by road. Not all of the places featured are sites of the wars, those added are relevant places for a war sites visitor - such as Puke Ariki in Taranaki. These extra sites are well chosen. With the information on the sites enough information is given on the conflicts overall to place the sites and the fighting in context, as one would expect of a professional historian. The accounts are balanced and sober with little of the daring do that has sometimes afflicted like works in the past. The maps show site locations in a regional view relating sites to each other and major modern roads, but they do little as either a modern road map for visitors or to set the sites in their historical geography.
Will a user of the book follow the routes proposed? I suspect not - a general reader is likely to want to see other things as well and perhaps pick and choose from the sites here. It is a book for the general reader rather than an archaeologist, because most of the sites covered there no longer have any surface remains. Still the Wellington section had a surviving site the reviewer had not heard of. The historical illustrations are well chosen - the modern ones less so. There are rather too many war memorials and too many of the ground level photographs are uninformative. There is a bibliography of historical accounts and of relevant fiction and also a filmography. The reader though is not directed to sources for the individual sites.
Overall - worthy enough - but perhaps a little dull?