Tangata Pasifika

A new book published this month by the University of Hawai’i Press considers the foundational texts in Pacific Islands history. Texts and Contexts: Reflections in Pacific Islands Historiography, edited by Doug Munro and Brij V. Lal, focuses on 35 pioneering historical works published between 1938 and 1992.

HistoryWorks director Dr Vincent O’Malley contributed a chapter on two seminal works of New Zealand race relations history. Keith Sinclair’s, The Origins of the Maori Wars, first published in 1957, constituted a major breakthrough in the writing of New Zealand history, while Alan Ward’s, A Show of Justice (1974), remains the standard reference work on nineteenth-century ‘native’  policy.

According to O’Malley, both works rank among a handful of the most important histories published in New Zealand – and both made significant contributions to the process of revisiting and exposing some of the more uncomfortable truths of the nation’s past. Texts and Contexts provides a timely reminder of previous paths travelled in writing the region’s past and a guide to those ahead. This is a book which is likely to become recognised as itself a foundational text in the historiography of the Pacific. [Added 12 October 2005]

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