Contacts - Canterbury University Press - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Book challenges popular beliefs about New Zealand history

14 March 2006

A new book by Christchurch historian Harry Evison re-examines New Zealand's colonial history in the light of a number of original documents, particularly the ten Ngai Tahu deeds by which the Crown acquired Maori title to the southern half of New Zealand from 1844 to 1864.

The Ngai Tahu Deeds: A window on New Zealand history, released this month by Canterbury University Press, features handsome colour reproductions of these deeds and their plans, published for the first time.

To help readers interpret these images and form their own conclusions, detailed transcripts and commentaries are provided, which the author compiled during his intensive research in the Crown deeds archive.

Sixteen chapters of text provide a fresh account of the period and the key people involved. The author challenges some popular assumptions regarding the Treaty of Waitangi, the Wakefield scheme, Maori aboriginal title and the policies of Governor Grey.

Besides the deeds documents, the author draws on original manuscripts such as private and official letters and journals, Native Land Court minutes, and Royal Commission evidence, ensuring that the Maori voice and the official voice are both heard.

For the general reader as well as for the student The Ngai Tahu Deeds provides a timely and practical example of how original manuscript documents can clarify and enliven our knowledge of history.

Mr Evison said the need to clear away more than a century of error and misinterpretation of the Ngai Tahu deeds and “thus restore the integrity of the Ngai Tahu historical record” was his inspiration for writing the book.

Mr Evison has an interest in Ngai Tahu history that dates back to his 1952 MA history thesis on Canterbury Maoris, which was the first to attribute Maori destitution to land loss rather than to ‘psychological failure'. After teaching history and English in various schools and colleges he assisted Ngai Tahu at the Waitangi Tribunal and the Maori Appellate Court.

In 1989 he was awarded a Queen's Service Medal (Public Services) for his publications which fostered Maori-Pakeha understanding and in 1996 he received the honorary degree Doctor of Letters from the University of Canterbury.

His previous books include The Long Dispute: Maori Land Rights and European colonisation in Southern New Zealand and Te Wai Pounamu: The Greenstone Island, which won him the 1994 New Zealand Book Award for Non-fiction.

The Ngai Tahu Deeds will be launched by Ngai Tahu on Thursday 6 April at Te Waipounamu House in Hereford Street, Christchurch. The attractive hardcover volume was published with the help of a generous grant from Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu.

Historian Harry Evison with Ngāi Tahu kaumatua Rakiihia Rau, who helped launch Harry's book on behalf of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, at Te Waipounamu House on 6 April.

The Ngai Tahu Deeds: A window on New Zealand history,
by Harry Evison, published by Canterbury University Press, March 2006, RRP NZ$39.95, Hardback, 320 pp, b/w and colour illustrations. ISBN 1-877257-39-7. Link to more new title information for this book

Click here to view more photos in the launch gallery

For further information please contact:
Maria De Cort
Canterbury University Press
Tel: +64 3 364 2072
Fax: +64 3 364 2679
Mob: 027 224 5104