The Penguin History of New Zealand
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Penguin History of New Zealand

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  449 ratings  ·  39 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
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Behind the Hood by Marita A. HansenPhenomena by Susan TarrThe Bone People by Keri HulmeThe Whale Rider by Witi IhimaeraMister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Books By New Zealand Authors
13th out of 463 books — 232 voters
Phenomena by Susan TarrThe Bone People by Keri HulmeThe Whale Rider by Witi IhimaeraRipple by Tui AllenThe Piano by Jane Campion
New Zealand
8th out of 194 books — 122 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 951)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...more
Joanna P
"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.
Jan Staveley
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
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...more
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
Lau Hoon
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
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
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...more
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
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...more
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
Alan Wightman
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.
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

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.
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.
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.
Frank Rogers
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.
Erik Th
OK overview; rich interpretation; but lacked issues of historical meanings. Nice collection of facts & explanations.
Carl Wells
I'm proud to have read it all, but regret not remembering more of it. However I'm left with a good general sense of New Zealand's origins, and an appreciation for it's complexities (even if I can't spew the facts on request). Thus I would recommend actually owning this book as a reference.
Nov 26, 2009 Maccha is currently reading it
Started in July... and put aside. One of those books I've been meaning to read for ages, but thought it would be a bit dry. Turns out it is very readable, and have been enjoying it. Put it down for my book club book, and haven't yet picked it back up.
George Connor
Nov 29, 2012 George Connor rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone living in or thinking about visiting NZ
A very good 'helicopter view' of NZ history. The approachability and relatively short size of this book should really make it required reading for all educated in this country. King keeps it approachable without completely succumbing to pop-history
A fine general history of New Zealand. King packs a surprising amount of information into a relatively small space, and writes in a clear, accessible style. A highly useful reference work, and also a book that can be dipped into at random.
A good general history of NZ. King manages that rather rare feat of writing for the average reader yet not patronising them.
Worth a read. Unless you're looking for a history of Peru, that is. Almost nothing on Peru in here.
Peter Walton-Jones
This book is a great read and I would highly recommend it to all interested in a full, readable, balanced, meticulous, and thought provoking history of NZ. Should be compulsory reading for all training teachers.
A very well-written summary of New Zealand history. It's easy to see why it became such a phenomenal success.
This was a bit of a slog, but it did have interesting moments. I'm glad I read it before my trip, but otherwise I wouldn't have bothered, chapters took too long to get to the meat.
Ole Phillip
This is excellent stuff. Reads like a novel and covers just about everything, or so it seems. Can definitely be recommended, before or after any trip to New Zealand or just like that.
Jayson Hoogeveen
This book should be read by all New Zealanders to give them an idea about the history of their country and will make them able to make better decisions about New Zealand in the present.
Aug 20, 2007 Paula rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: you
the huge history of our little country...palatable, interesting, and discredits some of the historical myths that most new zealanders have been fed.
easy to get your teeth into
by far the most amazing piece of historical literature I've ever read. I actually wanted to keep reading.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 31 32 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • In My Father's Den
  • Janet Frame: An Autobiography
  • Once Were Warriors
  • The Vintner's Luck (Vintner's Luck, #1)
  • Novel About My Wife
  • Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
  • New Zealand
  • Doyle Brunson's Super System II
  • As the Earth Turns Silver
  • Selected Stories
  • The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People
  • A History of the Middle East
  • Potiki
  • The Penguin History of the USA
  • Disaster Area
  • The Whale Rider
  • The Lost Executioner: A Journey to the Heart of the Killing Fields
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
More about Michael King...
Wrestling with the Angel Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native Gardening with Grasses Who Killed King Tut? Te Puea: a biography

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…