Beyond the Imperial Frontier: The Contest for Colonial New Zealand
by Vincent O’Malley (Bridget Williams Books, paper $49.99; e-book $20)
Reviewed by Alison McCulloch
As we enter what Australian historian Henry Reynolds has called a “carnival of commemoration” around the Gallipoli centenary, it feels both necessary and refreshing to dig into local history – into stories of our own wars in all their tragedy and triumph.
Wellington historian Vincent O’Malley’s new book, Beyond the Imperial Frontier: The Contest for Colonial New Zealand does that, and more besides. Because it’s a collection of essays rather than a linear history following a singular narrative, O’Malley is able to range widely across time and topic, from a fresh analysis of the 1863 invasion of the Waikato, to the taking of Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, to the oil wars of the East Coast (who knew?).
This also makes it the perfect book to dip into and out of, although I read it from cover to cover, in order of appearance. Well almost. I couldn’t resist dipping into Chapter 7 first.
That chapter, about the Waikato war, caught my eye partly because I live in Tauranga Moana, into which the Waikato war spilled 150 years ago this past year, and partly because I know O’Malley is working on a book dedicated to that war, due in 2015, and I was eager for a preview. I also confess to becoming a little obsessed of late at the disconnect between the wads of cash and attention being lavished on Gallipoli and the curious neglect shown our own wars, and it’s a point O’Malley makes here, albeit more politely than I might.