New Zealand wars

Where can I find information about the New Zealand land wars during the 1840s to 1870s?

Entry last updated: 01/11/17

Introduction

The New Zealand Wars were a series of battles and smaller conflicts that took place between the 1840s and the 1870s in the North Island of New Zealand. Despite the Treaty of Waitangi being signed in 1840, there was increasing pressure on Māori to sell their land to the growing numbers of European settlers. Many disputes were over land that had been taken over by settlers or the colonial government, or bought for very little by settlement organisations like the New Zealand Company. These conflicts have also been known as The Māori Wars and The Land Wars.

The wars

The New Zealand wars were fought across different locations in the North Island and each war or battle had its own story that led to conflict. Of the few thousand people that died in the wars, most were Māori.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This gives a good introduction to all New Zealand related matters, including, history, society, culture and environment.

In addition to a chapter on each war, you will find some information on the long-term impact of the wars, as well as some external links and other sources.

NZHistory

This is another great place for information about events in New Zealand history.

  • Look at New Zealand's Internal Wars to find out about individual land wars, as well as an introduction to New Zealand's 19th-century wars, including the earlier inter-tribal Musket Wars.
  • The extra links to the right of the page include related images and biographies.
  • Remember to check the further information section. This includes links to more resources and a suggested reading list.
Tips: These are excellent websites for questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. They both belong to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

Treaty of Waitangi Collection - Bridget Williams Books

This is one of the EPIC resources and great for in-depth information about the relationship between Māori and non-Māori (pākehā). You can find information by browsing some of the book titles.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Puke Ariki

This is the New Plymouth library and museum and a good place to find local information on the Taranaki Wars which took place between 1860 and 1866.

Tauranga Memories

Tauranga Library has a similar resource focusing on the wars of that region, especially the Battles of Gate Pā and Te Ranga in 1864.

Tips: In addition to the 'bigger picture' as shown in the resources mentioned above, museums and libraries are great places to find out about local history and events.

The people

We also suggest doing a search for information on the influential people on both sides of the conflicts.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

This is the part of Te Ara where you can find the stories of people who played a part in shaping New Zealand history.

  • Use the alphabetical letters to find the person's last name.
  • Have a look for information on Governor George Grey, Te Rauparaha and Hōne Heke.
  • You can also use the search to find information on the different tribes involved in the wars.

NZEDGELegends

This site has short biographies of New Zealanders who have made an impact either locally or on the world scene. It includes Te Ruki Kawiti who featured as an innovator behind the fortifications during the New Zealand Wars.

Legacy of war

The New Zealand wars have had a huge impact on the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. This can be seen in the official relationship between Māori and the government, as well as the level of trust between Māori and pākehā in New Zealand.

Māori Land Court - Te Kooti Whenua Māori

This court was set up by the government especially to deal with cases around Māori ownership of land - a role that looks very different now compared with when it was first formed as the Native Land Court in 1865.

  • Go to the section called About the Māori Land Court.
  • Select Our history.
  • This gives an overview of the court's function, history and current purpose.

Waitangi Tribunal - Te Rōpū Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi

The Waitangi Tribunal was set up by the New Zealand government to hear cases where Māori have not been treated fairly under the Treaty of Waitangi. Many of the claims are in relation to land that was unfairly taken from Māori during or after European settlement.

Tips: A good way of checking the reliability of a website is looking at the About page, if you can find one. This should tell you what the organisation or company's purpose and values are.

DigitalNZ

DigitalNZ brings together lots of digitised New Zealand content and culture, and is a good place to look for information about the New Zealand wars.

  • Try searching for 'New Zealand land wars' and different combinations of search words.
  • Results are organised by type, including images, audio, video, articles and research papers.
  • Look through the video results to find clips from the well-known documentary called 'The New Zealand Wars', presented by James Belich.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. It's good try to different keywords about your topic, especially if you know there are other names for what you are looking for, like New Zealand wars, Māori Wars or Land Wars.

Australia / New Zealand Reference Centre

Another EPIC resource, this site is a great place to find newspaper and magazine articles from New Zealand and Australia.

  • Try a general search for 'New Zealand wars', or pick a particular war to search for, like 'Taranaki wars'.
  • Tick the Full Text box on the side of the search results to see articles you can read online.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Primary sources

Primary sources are things like letters, images, diaries, and other documents created during that period of history or soon after by people who were there.

New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (NZETC)

This site has lots of digital versions of old books and other historical information about New Zealand.

Papers Past

This site has digitized versions of a number of early New Zealand newspapers and is a good place to look for primary sources.

  • Remember to change the search options, for example narrow the date range and look at North Island papers.
  • Early on, the wars were known as 'The Maori Wars', rather than 'The New Zealand Wars', so keep that mind when you search and look through results.
  • You can also use Papers Past to check through the Parliamentary Papers of the time.

Topic Explorer

This is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. The resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

  • The entry for The New Zealand Wars provides information in different formats including images and some video.
  • Select 'show only primary sources' to find articles and images.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us .

Books

The following are just a selection of books published about the New Zealand wars. Check with your school or public library for others.

Many of the books relevant to this topic will be publications which often can't be borrowed. Try using the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre above to find full-text versions of many older New Zealand history books.

For more information, try these Many Answers entries:

SCIS no: 1839709
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