Last week I finally got around to writing the story of the Tarawa coast-watch massacre. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. It’s the story of how 22 New Zealanders, many of them civilians working for the Post and Telegraph Department, were murdered by Japanese occupation forces in October 1942. There’s a memorial … More The Tarawa coast-watch massacre of 1942
In the last ten days there have been announcements about two different giant birds that used to live in New Zealand. There’s a human-sized penguin that flourished during the Paleocene – the first age after the dinosaur extinction event – and a one-metre tall parrot that lived some tens of millions of years later in … More All about New Zealand’s amazing giant dead parrot
The thing about soap operas is that they never end. Never. Not ever. No matter how execrable the plotlines. You know what I mean – those story arcs about everyday suburban life where Character X dies after being drugged and tied upside-down to the mast of a yacht in a hurricane by pirates, escaping, but … More How Shortland Street should end (but won’t)
Today, 25 April, is New Zealand’s memorial day – Anzac Day. It’s the day when we remember all our war dead, more than half of whom died in just one campaign, the Western Front. Today I’m re-posting a short extract from my book, The New Zealand Experience at Gallipoli and the Western Front, pondering the … More Lest we forget: the memory of war
Back in 2001 I wrote a book on New Zealand’s naval history. Blue Water Kiwis was picked up by the Royal New Zealand Navy to mark their sixtieth anniversary that year, and launched (but not literally) on the flight-deck of HMNZS Te Mana. I remember that evening rather well, not least because my wife and … More Blue Water Kiwis – second edition out now!
I am hugely impressed with what New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, did after the horrific terror attack in Christchurch on 15 March. She told us – and the world – that New Zealand utterly rejected what the gunman had done and stood for. It would not be allowed to change New Zealand’s way of … More Defeating terror with the strength of kindness
I write this with heavy heart and deep sadness. My thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy in Christchurch; I stand by them, as do all Kiwis. As I write this, I hear reports that the youngest victim was just five, pursued and gunned down in cold blood. There are no words to … More New Zealand’s darkest day
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
There has been a debate brewing this past week in New Zealand about whether to make teaching history compulsory in schools. New Zealand history, of course. At the moment it isn’t. Because I’ve been on the radio and TV a bit this past week, thanks to the promotion of my book on the Treaty of … More Should history be compulsory in New Zealand schools?
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?