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THE CHANGING LAND
A short history of New Zealand for children.
Michael Turnbull. Longmans. English price, 8s. Reviewed by W. H. Oliver.
Mr Turnbull, with the experience behind him of research and university teaching, and of work in the School Publications Branch, should have been the ideal person to write a textbook on New Zealand history for children—and indeed for two-thirds of its length, The Changing Land is far and away the best thing of its kind.
His chapters are seldom longer than about fifteen pages (and a good deal of space is taken up with Jill McDonald's admirable illustrations and less than admirable maps); each chapter is divided into sections often less than a page and seldom more than two pages long. Often these sections incorporate graphic incidents which illustrate a general truth about the course of New Zealand history—e.g. the story on pp. 23–5 of Wiremu Tamihana's conversion to Christianity, of his fear when faced by the tohunga and the whistling voice of the spirit, and of his renewed conversion.
Mr Turnbull has a sharp eye for the striking concrete detail which is likely to stick in the mind of the reader; he notes that wounds in classical Maori warfare quickly healed while musket balls stayed lodged in the victim's flesh, that Te Puni went visiting in Wellington in tophat and tails but took off his trousers to walk home to the Hutt, that during the floods Weld simply paddled his canoe through the window of his hut. Contemporary accounts are drawn upon with great skill: Manning's Old New Zealand, Studholme's Te Waimate, Lady Barker's books, Helen Wilson's My First Eighty Years, and a host of lesser known works. This is social history, but it is not (like so much social history) humdrum and dreary. Maori society, archaic and classical; the whalers, the missionaries, the sheepmen and the diggers; settler, soldier and tribesman in the 1860s—there is plenty that is both rich and strange emerging from their story.
In the earlier chapters, roughly covering the period to about 1880, the episodes and illuminating details are woven into a firmly moving narrative. Thereafter the author is much less at home with his material. The four chapters ostensibly running from about 1880 to the present day are almost entirely devoid of narrative. They are a random collection of episodes, many of them dealing with farming, many of them with the fate of the Maoris. The reason is not far to seek. In the later 19th century and the 20th, the central theme in New Zealand history is politics; before then the economic historian can afford to ignore politics just as much as contemporaries did: digging the soil and shearing the sheep were more important than voting, and didn't depend all that much on voting. But, beginning with Vogel, reinforced by the depression of the 1880s, and institutionalised by the Liberals after 1890, a change occurred by which digging and shearing, and all other economic operations, came to depend very much on voting and all the other aspects of politics.
The fact that Mr Turnbull ignores politics as resolutely in his later sections as he did in his earlier means a loss of coherence. We are told that the Liberals helped the small-scale farmer to get established, but not who the Liberals were. Much is made of McKenzie, but nothing is said of Seddon and Reeves until the very close of the book; Ward, more important than McKenzie, is not even mentioned. Ngata's land policies are mentioned at length, but not the Reform government
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in which he worked, nor (in this connection) the Labour government which inherited his policies. Of Labour politicians Semple is mentioned, but not Fraser and Nash; nor are Massey and Coates allowed to figure, a strange omission in a book which lays such stress on the rise of the dairy and the fat-lamb farmers. The strangest omission of all—for the book lays great stress upon the Maori and race relations—is the Native Land Court of 1862 and the subsequent sale of Maori Lands. Instead the confiscations of 1863 assume a wholly exaggerated importance.
This is professedly an economic history, concerned with how men got their living. It is the orthodox contemporary view in educational circles that children are better taught about food and farming, industries and trade unions, crops, fertilizers and freezing works, than about battles, heroic exploits and striking individuals. I do not subscribe to this view myself, but if it is to be imposed upon the children then it's as well that it be done by someone with Mr Turnbull's eye for the striking and the singular. Up to about 1870 he manages to make economic and social history exciting. I should like a good deal more blood and thunder for my own children. War parties, whalers, diggers and sheep men are well enough. But, as well as Orakau, I should like my children to meet up with Kereopa and Volkner at Opotiki (there's quite enough in the book to show how unpleasant the pakeha could be); I should like them to share Cook's zeal for discovery; to face an angry or an enthusiastic audience with Seddon; to ride with Massey's strike-breakers in 1913 and to see the plate glass shattering in Queen Street in 1932; to feel the exhilaration which swept the country in 1935–6; to fear the Japanese in 1942. And so on. I fear they might, reading this book, grow weary of following farmers up clay roads to muddy farms, weary of the cow bail, the shearing shed, the top-dressed pasture and the dairy factory.
But where so much is given, it is a bit churlish to complain that it is not more. This book, especially the first hundred pages, is admirably alive.
HISTORIC BAY OF ISLANDS
Reviewed by Katherine Lloyd.
The appearance recently of Historic Bay of Islands by John H. Alexander and text by A. H. Reed will, I am sure, be welcomed by all who see it. There have been many publications of this beautiful part of New Zealand over the years and I consider this to be, of its kind, one of the best. There are one or two inaccuracies in the script—these I understand have been noted.
Newcomers to this delightful and historic area look for something they can take away—something concise, arresting—something to make them enquire further—not too large, and reasonably priced. This seems to be the answer. The illustrations are immediately arresting—they are bold and decisive. The good print and paper make it easily read. The cover too is most attractive.
I look forward to obtaining Historic Wellington which I feel sure I'll enjoy as much, and I trust these two are but forerunners of many others.
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DRIVE FOR FUNDS
Old students of Te Aute College and Hukarere Girls' School are to be approached for donations as part of a drive for funds to relieve difficulties being experienced by both schools. The appeal has been launched by a commitee of four old boys of Te Aute—Mr T. T. Ropiha, Mr H. M. Tatere, Mr A. T. Carroll and Mr W. T. Ngata—with Mr L. R. Lewis, a member of the Te Aute Trust Board. The target is £15,000. Committee members have recently made an extensive tour of the area from Rotorua to Hastings to organise fund-raising drives. For many years, the Te Aute Trust Board, which administers both Te Aute and Hukarere, has had difficulties in meeting financial commitments for the two schools. An endowment of about 7,000 acres has produced a reasonable income, but long-standing setbacks such as the fire at Te Aute and the damage both schools sustained in the 1931 earthquake have proved too big a hurdle for the Trust to surmount. It is estimated that an expenditure of £20,000 is required to bring the two schools up to the standard of schools administered by the State.
An approach has been made to the Maori Purposes Fund Board and the Board has agreed to subsidise the results of the appeal on a pound for pound basis up to a maximum of £5,000. The organisers of the appeal and the Bishop of Waiapu believe it is essential that £5,000 be raised within the next few months so that, with the Maori Purposes Fund Board's subsidy, £10,000 will be available for an immediate start on the project.
MAORI ACTION SONGS
Maori Action Songs by Alan Armstrong and Reupena Ngata has made its appearance at a time when New Zealanders are showing an increasing interest in Maori culture. The work is an honest attempt to bring the Action Song within reach of the average person who has little knowledge of Maori culture, but who has a desire to learn.
With words and musical notation, diagrams and explanatory notes, the student has an opportunity to learn by following the instructions set out in the book. However, one would need to familiarise oneself with the key, before learning a single action song, otherwise confusion will result. A learner could easily become frustrated if he has to continually turn pages to find out the correct action, as the key extends from page 11 to page 19.
Two people working together would be likely to meet more success in learning these action songs, than one person who has to co-ordinate all movements, while simultaneously reading instructions and concentrating on words and music.
The liberal use of diagrams is a help, as visual aids can so often achieve more than the written words. Although the subject matter is not easy to explain, the compilers of this work have achieved something of value. This is important in view of the desirability of stimulating interest in Maori culture as part of the New Zealand way of life.
Mr Armstrong and Mr Ngata have included a concert programme with hints on production, and it is both practical and impressive. This has obviously been drawn from first hand experience. The Glossary provides interesting material for the student of Maori culture.
One is aware of the real effort that has been made in attempting to record and comment on a difficult subject. To those who are interested in Maori culture, Maori Action Songs is well worth studying, and the authors have made an important contribution towards satisfying the need on this subject. It is hoped that this publication will inspire more Maoris to follow this example and set down in book form their favourite action songs from their own tribal areas.
SECRETARY TO MINISTER
Mr Wiremu Tuakana Ngata, a son of the late Sir Apirana Ngata, has been appointed private secretary to the Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon. J. R. Hanan. Sir Apirana was for some years a Native Minister. Mr Ngata, who has been editor of the Maori text of Te Ao Hou since its first issue, will continue to perform his duties for the magazine in his new position. Te Ao Hou congratulates Mr Ngata on his promotion.
Mr Peter Gordon, of the Department of External Affairs, has been posted to Bangkok, Thailand, where he took up his duties last April. A farewell to Mr Gordon was held at Poho-o-Rawiri, Gisborne, prior to his departure. Among those present were the Mayor and Mayoress of Gisborne, Mr and Mrs H. Barker, and Mr Gray, Rector of Gisborne Boys' High School. Speeches of farewell were made by Messrs H. te Kani te Ua, M. Pohotu, P. Kaua, W. Kerekere, Barker. Gray, and Mr Gordon replied. Mr Gordon has taken up his post as third secretary to the New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok, and part of his work will be to assist tourists in Bangkok.
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