It’s 180 years since a treaty was signed outside the Resident’s House in the Bay of Islands by which Maori ceded sovereignty to the British crown. It remains the only such treaty in the world; the British signed many treaties with many peoples, but none involved a cession of sovereignty. Of course, the question remains … More Waitangi Day 2020
Eighty nine years ago, on 3 February, my home district of Hawke’s Bay was laid waste by a massive earthquake that destroyed the two main centres, damaged a wide swath of central New Zealand, and killed at least 256. Hundreds more were seriously injured, and thousands hurt in ways that many did not bother to … More Remembering the Quake of '31
It is 78 years, this weekend, since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor turned what had been a European war into a world conflict. Over the next few days we roll through the anniversary of the loss to air attack of the Prince of Wales and Repulse – two capital ships the British deployed to … More On these days in history
I’ve written an article for a lifestyle magazine. It’s on sheep. Really. I’ve covered the early history of sheep in New Zealand, and there will likely be more in the series – including the stories of sheep rustling, fast business deals and general adventuring that went on in back-country New Zealand’s wool industry around 150 … More A short history of sheep in New Zealand's Wild West era
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
The idea of a political spectrum defined by ‘left’ and ‘right’ wing views has been around ever since September 1789, when they were invented. The revolutionaries had set up a National Assembly – meeting initially in a tennis court – which they declared indissoluble until they had resolved their issues with the King Louis XVI. … More What do we mean by ‘left’ and ‘right’?
Has anybody noticed how many cars have had extremely silly names. It was always a thing. Over a century ago, US vehicle makers produced cars with names such as ‘Pungs-Finch’ (22 hp, 4 cylinders and $1850), Piggins of 1910 – a snap at $3500 in period dollars – about $90,000 US dollars today. And let’s … More Cars with silly names