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New Zealand - History
The first European explorer came in 1642. Abel Tasman was Dutch and spent time charting the coastline, although he did not go ashore. When his ships encountered the Maoris there was a violent encounter and Tasman left shortly afterwards. It was more than one hundred years later when the British explorer James Cook arrived in New Zealand in 1769. From this point New Zealand became much busier, with traders and missionaries arriving regularly and settlements appearing along the coastline. However, this led to the ‘Musket Wars’ with the Maoris, who abandoned spears and clubs in favour of guns bought from the traders.
The British signed treaties with the Maoris when the islands were annexed by the British but the growing numbers of Europeans arriving on the islands meant that land wars continued and in 1845 hostilities began again. However, in 1870, the British withdrew troops from the island.
Initial European settlement was mainly from the British Isles although some settlers from the area now known as Croatia and the Czech Republic also moved there. By 1911 more than 1 million white settlers had set up home in New Zealand.
In some areas the Maoris thrived, providing the new settlers with food and other items and gradually the relationship between the settlers and the Maoris calmed, although in other areas the Maoris lost lands and property. There were some wars as some tried to hold on to their lands and there was a strong resistance for many years.
The South Island was a much more peaceful place as there were fewer settlements. In 1861 a gold rush was sparked after the precious metal was discovered at Gabriel’s Gully. There was an attempt in 1865 for independence from the North Island although this bill did not make it through Parliament.
Prior to the 1890s the economy had relied strongly on wool and trading locally. After this time frozen meat and dairy products took over, with exports to Britain and other countries. This was the basis of the New Zealand economy right up until the 1970s. Other changes that took place in New Zealand at the end of the 19th century include the development of the party system in politics. The welfare state was established and pensions were put into place. In 1893 New Zealand gained the distinction of becoming the first country in the world to allow women the right to vote.
In 1901 New Zealand decided not to become part of the Commonwealth of Australia and gained status as a separate ‘dominion’ in 1907. As such it had the same status as Canada and Australia. During the First World War 100,000 New Zealand men fought alongside British troops as New Zealand remained part of the Empire. They were able to take control of Western Samoa from Germany and remained in charge there until Samoa became independent in the early 1960s.
New Zealand was affected by the Depression in the 1930s and international trade saw a downturn. In order to relieve the problems of unemployment the government established a number of schemes of ‘relief work’ such as road building, farm work and park works.
During the Second World War 120,000 New Zealand troops took part, fighting mainly in Europe, while the Royal Navy and US Armed Forces protected the islands of New Zealand from attacks by Japan although attempts from the Japanese were rare. Maori troops took part in WWII and many then moved to the urban areas. This led to a rise in racism but there were many campaigns against this, promoting Maori culture.
In the 1970s when Britain joined the EU there were problems for New Zealand with international trade and the country was forced to find new markets for its produce. Agriculture remains the leading part of the economy. The links with Britain are now much less formal although New Zealnd did contribute troops for the war in Afghanistan and the country is one of the leading destinations for British expats.
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