There is a notion that history consists of ‘the facts’ – that all you have to do is discover ‘the facts’, which are literally true at face value, and that these ‘facts’ then ‘speak for themselves’. Such thinking, among other things, has fuelled the kind of dribble that I see pouring from the minds and … More Why the way we think about history is important
I periodically find myself in conversation with people who start with ‘You’re a historian, so you must know…’ – and then ask me something about some obscure piece of trivia in an area I’ve never looked at. However, my answer’s the same every time: as Einstein said, I don’t need to keep stuff to that … More History’s all about shapes and patterns – and it’s all relative
On 6 February 1840, as Hone Heke prepared to be the first Maori to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, the young missionary printer William Colenso stopped proceedings. He had a question for William Hobson, the man about to become governor of the New Zealand colony. Did Maori really understand the Treaty? It turned out that … More Did Maori really understand the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840?
I featured in the national media yesterday, subject of a personality profile piece to highlight my latest book, Waitangi: A Living Treaty. It was kind of cool. The feature was syndicated across several of the major national daily papers, and online – here. The basic idea of the book is that the Treaty is a … More Yes, the meanings of the past DO change
Flags are at half mast today across New Zealand to mark the hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. Over 100,000 young Kiwi men were drawn into that conflict over a four year span. Of these, more than 58,000 became casualties, 16,500 of them dead. For a country of just on a … More Lamenting the sadness of war, and of New Zealand’s war historians
I was interviewed on national TV early yesterday morning, to explain the drama of the day – the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gate Pa, in what is now suburban Tauranga. You can check out the interview here: http://www.3news.co.nz/Battle-of-Gate-Pa-remembered-in-Tauranga/tabid/423/articleID/341901/Default.aspx This happened before I’d knocked back enough coffee. But hey… The battle was the last flourish of the Waikato war, … More The perils of being interviewed on TV before the first real coffee