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The Penguin History of New Zealand

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  778 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
New Zealand was the last country in the world to be discovered and settled by humankind. It was also the first to introduce a full democracy. Between those events, and in the century that followed the franchise, the movements and the conflicts of human history have been played out more intensively and more rapidly in New Zealand than anywhere else on Earth. This title tell ...more
Paperback, A Penguin History Original, 570 pages
Published 2003 by Penguin Books
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The Penguin History of New Zealand: Michael King's History for Two Peoples

If you want to know practically anything about New Zealand or anything about anyone of consequence to its history, Michael King is your reference source. The author of over thirty books on all things New Zealand, King's The Penguin History of New Zealand, published in 2003, is considered the best history written in the thirty years preceding its publication.

New Zealand's history is dominated by its Maori People who arrived
Jan 20, 2012 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
You might think that living so close to New Zealand I would have known more about it – not that I didn’t assume I knew all there was to know before I went over there for three weeks. In fact, I knew nothing about the place at all and so reading this book became urgent.

One of the main differences is the landscape – New Zealand is very geologically active, the complete opposite of Australia – and it is also mountainous, were Australia prefers flat surfaces. Australia doesn’t have volcanoes or maj
Jan Staveley
Feb 03, 2013 Jan Staveley rated it did not like it
This book is considered by many to be a benchmark historical account of Mew Zealand's history but having read extensively through primary source material and abundant eyewitness accounts I am forced to conclude that this book does not give an accurate portrayal of NZs history. Michael King is actually giving a revisionist history that is more fiction than fact. My first issue is with the lack of bibliography? Is this not a surprising omission considering the scope of a non fiction historical boo ...more
Joanna P
Aug 17, 2013 Joanna P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Penguin History of New Zealand" is a well written, concise and impartial overview of New Zealand's History. It's easy to read, full of interesting facts and anecdotes. My only wish would be for it to include more maps and illustrations as they help in understanding the facts.
I don't know why, but I was always attracted to New Zealand and dreamed about travelling there for years. I started this book in January for the "book about a culture you're unfamiliar with" category of the 2016 Popsugar Challenge to learn more about this country, where I was to spend a month road-tripping in November. I decided to read a chapter a week, the plan being to finish it somewhere in July, with a few month margin if it went askew.

It did, because this book is detailed. Very detailed.
Mar 26, 2013 Bevan rated it really liked it
This is a good narrative history of New Zealand. Its well written and manages to cover the material in a pretty balanced way. I enjoyed the way King explained the geological background and timescales. He also manages not to stay too aloof and general - I enjoyed the material on Thomas Russell for example and his cavalier capitalism at a time when the nation was beginning to really be built.
I'm sure there are parts that will annoy people of most political persuasions. Any material that deals wit
Jul 08, 2016 Jan rated it liked it
A general and comprehensive history of country, even with less than 250 years of recorded history necessarily is a daunting task. And occasionally this tome becomes somewhat dry. Nonetheless it manages to let theme such as ecosystem dynamics, indigenous vs. European culture, isolation, alignment with the Birtish Empire, conservatism, rugby and a predilection for military pursuits stand out. A great to start and to return to as a work of reference, but not the work that provokes emotions and crea ...more
Nicola Battson
Jun 15, 2015 Nicola Battson rated it really liked it
Really interesting and well researched book - every New Zealander should read.
Jason Fernandes
Oct 06, 2016 Jason Fernandes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, have the results of the Brexit Referendum and the US Presidential Election made you consider moving to New Zealand?

For those seriously planning to move, it would probably pay to know more about the country you are considering. Michael King’s Penguin History of New Zealand was an immediate success when first published in 2003 and when an illustrated hardcover edition became available, I did not hesitate to grab a copy. As a general overview of New Zealand history, and a popular one, a better
Jan 11, 2017 Nick rated it it was amazing
Amazing introduction to New Zealand.
Jan 12, 2009 Reenie rated it liked it
It's kind of nice to have a country who's complete entire human history (from the arrival of the very first settlers) can fit into 500 pages. Obviously, this isn't the most comprehensive history of particular eras ever written, even on NZ, but the truth is, even the pre-European phase of NZ only begins in ~1200 AD (cf North America - 9000 BC, and Australia, ~40000 BC), so everything that has happened here, has happened pretty quickly. At high school this fact always kept me away from NZ history ...more
John Collings
Jun 12, 2016 John Collings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have ever been to New Zealand, you quickly get lost in the majestic beauty that the place has to offer. But as you travel between the mountains, volcanic playgrounds, and numerous sheep farms, you start to notice that there is more to this place than just the set location for Peter Jackson's versions of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasies. There is a history and a unique culture to this tiny corner of the world, and you start to wonder what that history would look like. That is where this book com ...more
Michelle Johnson
Jan 01, 2016 Michelle Johnson rated it it was amazing
QUICK PITCH: A quick history of New Zealand, written in layman's terms.

VERDICT: Although it wasn't the most thrilling book I've ever read, this history was exactly what I wanted--a well-written and approachable overview of New Zealand's history for someone coming from a different country.

In some places, the author shifts around in time so he can speak about a specific aspect of history for an entire chapter. Basically, he chooses to focus on a topic (or, often, to focus on eith
Angel 一匹狼
May 27, 2015 Angel 一匹狼 rated it really liked it
Really good book about the history of New Zealand, which, of course, will be enjoyed at its fullest by people that know the country or like history.

Michael King's book goes from even before humans were on the island, till the 2000s. It is clear, fast paced and fun to read, and it touches on all kind of subjects, from maori-pakeha relations, to men-women or World War I & II. You won't have many problems understanding his writing style and the more than 500 pages are easily dealt with, as you
Lau Hoon
Nov 01, 2013 Lau Hoon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having just read Jared Diamond's 'Collapse', more particularly his theories about the failure of the Polynesian colonies on Easter and Pitcairn Islands due to over-exploitation of natural resources in fragile eco-systems, the early parts of Michael King's book almost reads like a sequel - of a successful Polynesian colonization that also endured and survived a self-induced ecological disaster in pre-Pakeha New Zealand. As a complete newbie to things New Zealand, this book has really given me a n ...more
Jul 03, 2012 Nadine rated it really liked it
Really enjoying this, can't believe it's taken me so long to read the history of my own country, but then maybe had to wait until someone of Michael King's calibre wrote it (mind you he did write it a while ago but living in London means NZ books not always readily available - thank goodness for Kiwifruits in the Royal Arcade, not only do they stock vital things like Arataki Clover Honey and Whitakker's Peanut Slabs, but they also stock those NZ books you don't find in Waterstones).

Well worth re
Julianne Quaine
Jan 03, 2015 Julianne Quaine rated it really liked it
Read this while on holiday in New Zealand and learnt a lot about New Zealand in the process. Well written, very readable and a great introduction to NZ. Ashamed I have not known more about the history of my country's near neighbour prior to reading this book. One thing that struck me was the difference in relations between the Maori and Pakeha compared to the relations between Australian Aborigines and non-Aborigines. The fact that the first Maori were awarded degrees in the 1890s and that Maori ...more
May 08, 2013 Alana rated it really liked it
Other reviews have said it all. A must read for all NZers (or those interested in our country). The focus is particularly on NZ society and the development of government, Maori society and Pakeha society. I most enjoyed reading the earlier chapters (creation of the land, Polynesian settlement prior to Europeans) and the latter chapters (the changes that I have been able to observe during my own lifetime). That is probably because I had a lot about the Treaty, land wars etc that I already knew fr ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Pip rated it liked it
It's very readable but I was disappointed because it didn't tell me anything i didn't already know. I suppose I was looking for more on the Pakeha-Maori clashes of the 18th & 19th centuries. It is unfair of me to criticise it for superficiality - what did I expect in one volume that attempts to cover the whole history of the country to the present. I need to read more and in greater depth. Any suggestions? my next book will be Making Peoples by James belich, who is quoted quite a bit in this ...more
Alan Wightman
Nov 03, 2010 Alan Wightman rated it really liked it
I read this in 2004 when everyone was reading it. Something I felt I needed to do, read this book, try to enhance my understanding of NZ, to look for insight perhaps.

Reads like a great epic until about 1950, after which things are gone over pretty quickly in an attempt to summarise. I particularly enjoyed the pre-history section, and also learning about people like Edward Gibbons Wakefield and Apirana Ngata.

NZ readers will be interested to learn that I bought this book with my FlyBuys.
Jan 02, 2014 Adastra rated it really liked it
This book gives a nice and brief overview of the history of New Zealand. Especially the early chapters on New Zealand's pre-history and Maori settlement are quite enlightening. However, most of the topics are treated somewhat superficially and if you are interested in a more in-depth history of New Zealand's places and people, you will have to find further material. This book is merely an excellent introduction for someone who has never given thought to Kiwi history. It is certainly helpful in a ...more
May 11, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it
The perfect intro to NZ history, King's book walks the fine line between pop and scholarly history, the writing never falling off that tightrope into either dumb crap or boring crap.

OK, King does resort to the occasional historian's platitude or long list of names. But if you want basic background of how the country's culture got to be the way it is, I'd start here. He tries, and for the most part succeeds, in writing his overview with the qualities that he sees as forming his country's greatest
Patty Hurley
Excellent survey of the islands themselves, the exploration and settlement by the polynesian/pacific islanders (only about 1000 years ago) of "the land of the long white cloud" and the exploration and settlement by Europeans and Americans (relatively late). He doesn't sugar coat, but he also doesn't get overly polemical. He provides enough detail to give you a sense of the depth of the story, but not so much that you can't get through the book in time for your vacation to New Zealand! (Worth rea ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Bill rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This was my souvenir from a holiday to NZ. It was recommended as the best general history of NZ. Put simply though - I should have read it before we went! None the less, it was good: not overly academic or dry, but serious enough to be occasionally thought provoking. Not being a Kiwi, I had to perservere through some parts - much of the political history, for example. Other sections were fascinating, such as the pre-history, early Maori history, discovery, exploration & settlement and the mi ...more
Sep 19, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
At 570 pages, this book is not for the faint of heart, but it is well written and easy to read. A good general history of New Zealand - and very useful to anyone who doesn't know much about the country. I was hoping for a little more about the more recent political and economic conditions (1980- 2000) but I realize that it is probably more difficult to write about current stuff than the older stuff. 5 stars and highly recommended.
Dec 28, 2009 Brad rated it really liked it
OK, apparently I don't have it in me to read a complete history book from cover to cover, but i did make it more than halfway through. If I'd stayed in New Zealand longer, maybe I would have been inspired to read further, but the early history of the country is fascinating and the author does a good job of covering a lot of territory without getting too bogged down in details. I might give this one another try one day.
I read this book for the first time in 2003. In fact, the author (Michael King) died of a car accident few weeks after my high school history class started reading his book. Took me 10 years before I get to buy my own copy and I'm looking forward to read it again.

This book is a good introduction to New Zealand's history especially to those who are new to the country and even to the Kiwis who wants to learn their country's past and origin

Boy Blue
Nov 16, 2016 Boy Blue rated it really liked it
There may be a few historical inaccuracies but for scope, depth and ease of read this is the best NZ historical text available. You will be embarrassed how little you knew about your country, it's early beginnings and how it's culture and sensibilities developed over the years. You'll probably also wonder why no one is teaching this in school. In Australia they call it the 'cultural cringe', in NZ it's probably more of a general ignorance. You have to read it if you're a kiwi.
Frank Rogers
Jul 14, 2013 Frank Rogers rated it did not like it
So, so dull. This book left almost no impression. ''Fairness and Freedom'' by David Hackett Fischer has so much more to say about New Zealand history, about the formation and identity of the different regions, even in its first 150 pages. It's a pity that Michael King's book is the only history of NZ that anybody seems to read. Highly overrated.
Jul 08, 2007 Andrew rated it liked it
New Zealand has a very intersting history, in that the colonization -- be it by Maori or European -- occurred quite recently. Therefore, everything took place quite quickly. The book loses steam towards the end; obviously, current social issues weren't King's specialty. The areas on initial Maori/Pakeha interactions, as well as the transformation of NZ to resemble Europe, are excellent.
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Michael King was one of New Zealand's leading historians and biographers. In 2006 he was named one of 100 most important New Zealanders that have ever lived. He published more than 34 books in his lifetime. His last, The Penguin History of New Zealand, has sold more than 200,000 copies and is widely considered to be the definitive history of New Zealand. His work in literary biography - most notab ...more
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“If popular mythology is to be believed, the discoverer of New Zealand was a Polynesian voyager named Kupe. Oddly, this myth was Pakeha in origin rather than Maori. Maori came to embrace it solely as a result of its widespread publication and dissemination in New Zealand primary schools between the 1910s and the 1970s.” 0 likes
“Even as recently as 10,000 years ago humankind had spread to and over every habitable continent on Earth, including New Zealand’s nearest neighbour, Australia. And this occupation and colonisation had major effects on the subsequent evolution of plants, animals and land forms. But not in New Zealand. In New Zealand, as an early geographer put it, ‘a land without people waited for a people without land’.” 0 likes
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