A sneak peek inside my ‘Bateman Illustrated History of New Zealand’

A few weeks ago an e-book edition of my best-selling Illustrated History of New Zealand was released by David Bateman Ltd.

Wright_New Zealand Illustrated coverYou can buy that by scrolling down and clicking on the link below. Go on, you know you want to…

Today I thought I’d share some of the pages of the print version.

History, to me, is more than simply recounting past events. It is about understanding the shapes and patterns of life –  exploring how they led to the world we know today. From that, we can understand more about where we are – and where we might go. It is, really, about understanding the human condition.

Sample of p 104. Click to enlarge.
Sample of p 104. Click to enlarge.

For these reasons history must be about people –  their thoughts, hopes and moods. About how they responded to the world they found themselves in. The colonial-age journey to New Zealand, which the sample pages I’ve reproduced here describes, brought that human condition out in many ways; a three month transition between old and new, a rite of passage in which they could shuck off the old world and more fully embrace the dream of the new.

Sample of p.105. Click to enlarge.
Sample of p.105. Click to enlarge.

On these pages I’ve conveyed some of the thoughts of those settlers – click to enlarge each page. The poignancy of the journey was deepened, for many, by tragedy; children, particularly, were vulnerable – and often died, something the colonial government deliberately addressed in the 1870s. That’s covered elsewhere in the book.

The opportunity to write something as big as my Illustrated History of New Zealand – big in the physical sense, big in terms of being an interpretative history of an entire nation – is rare in the career of any author.

Sample of p. 106. Click to enlarge.
Sample of p. 106. Click to enlarge.

The opportunity to then re-write it, ten years on – to re-visit, re-cast, re-think, extend and renew – is almost non-existent. That’s particularly true here in New Zealand where the number of qualified historians to have written large-scale interpretative general histories of the country, solo, in the last 60 years, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Sample of p. 107. Click to enlarge.
Sample of p. 107. Click to enlarge.

These samples have a copyright notice added to them. Pictures, forming part of the design collage, are from the collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

My Illustrated History of New Zealand is on sale now in bookstores across New Zealand, or direct from the publisher website. Scroll down for the e-book link.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

Some shameless self promotion:


It’s also available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/bateman-illustrated-history/id835233637?mt=11

Nook coming soon.

You can buy the print edition here: http://www.batemanpublishing.co.nz/ProductDetail?CategoryId=96&ProductId=1410


11 thoughts on “A sneak peek inside my ‘Bateman Illustrated History of New Zealand’

  1. One of my biggest regrets today is that I didn’t continue with history at school but dropped it the moment I had the option. On the other hand, I’d never had a history teacher who had a passion for the subject, so it shouldn’t be surprising.

    1. I never really saw history as a serious option until the very end of high school. Even at university I did a double major with history and anthropology. I only really focussed on it in my post-grad degrees. To me all has taken a back seat to physics. One result has been that I find I have a different approach to other and more specialised historians. I look on it as an advantage because history is about understanding the human condition of the past and I think a broad based approach pays dividends.

      1. I find it worrisome that the physical sciences (not just physics itself) are receiving so much emphasis. For one thing, it has convinced many students in the “hard” sciences that the arts and humanities don’t really matter, and that is a big mistake, for as you say, these sciences examine the human condition, something the hard sciences can’t do (though they presume to think they can).

        You know, every time you talk about your book the temptation increases to buy it, and I don’t even live in New Zealand and have never been interested in its history. If only the shipping and import taxes didn’t cost more than the book itself (this is not the type of thing I’d like to read on a tablet). But I bet you it would make an interesting conversation starter if people saw it lying on my coffee table 😉

        1. Do feel free to buy it! I have to admit postage costs are steep internationally, but hey… 🙂

          It’s a funny thing – NZ doesn’t feature much in South Africa, but we’re getting a lot of SA news just now, all featuring a certain Mr Pistorius!

          1. You don’t have to tell me. Between Oscar’s trial, the coming elections and the latest scandal involving the president I have just stopped watching the news. And now we’re starting with Shrien Dewani’s trial as well, which might just be bigger news than Oscar’s.

  2. Congrats on this, Matthew. It’s really interesting to think what it must have been like for someone emigrating almost anywhere in those days. The long sea journey (as you point out, a rite of passage in a literal sense) with, for landsmen, the totally alien and barren sea and the strange bounded world of the ship, with its own rituals and existence and taboos; then to see land after all that time, and know that for better or for worse, that’s home now. I don’t know that I’d like to be a pioneer in that sense, but it’s always intriguing to read about people who were. That’s were we come from; if you don’t know where you came from, how do you have a frame of reference for where you’re going?

    1. My take on the NZ experience is that in the sociological sense the voyage was one of permission, of transition and of facilitation between the old society and the aspired new. In any practical sense it was filled with hardships. It has also gone down in mythology, celwbrated in 1982 by Split Enz with their ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat’. This was about twice the actual duratikn and was promptly banned in the UK because the Falklands War was raging and it was wrongly taken to be a riff on the Royal Navy’s south atlantic task force.

  3. That wonderfully warm writing style of yours is evident in the sample pages you include. I had no doubt that reading your history would be like being told a story but most important, a story that not only happened but is told within a context that makes it relevant for our lives in this moment. Really looking forward to it, Matthew.


    1. Thank you! Even with non-fiction, the author has to grab the emotions of the reader and pull them forwards – it is, very much, story-telling in the sense of creating that sense of movement – that sense of relevance – for the reader.

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