Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Penguin History of New Zealand” as Want to Read:
The Penguin History of New Zealand
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Penguin History of New Zealand

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,518 ratings  ·  136 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.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,518 ratings  ·  136 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Penguin History of New Zealand
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone wanting a readable history of NZ
This book was published in 2003 & there will never be a revised edition - not written by Michael King anyway, as he was tragically killed in a car accident in 2004.

I love this photo of him (taken in 1992, sourced from Wikipedia)

A happy face, right? & I like to think this is how he looked when he wrote about us Kiwis, as for a history this book is astonishingly non judgemental. King looks at our mistakes (& as a country we have made some lulus!) but doesn't
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
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) In Lockdown
A wonderfully readable and very informative history, from pre-history to the present. The author keeps a great balance between the the Maori and Pakeha, European, perspectives.

I was especially taken by the the great differences between the history of NZ and my own country, Canada. Although both countries are former British possessions, their time and place have resulted in two very different cultures, both political and social. NZ’s long enduring attachment to Britain, seemingly trying to out-B
Jan 20, 2012 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 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
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.
Bevan Lewis
Mar 26, 2013 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
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
The best book on New Zealand’s history that you will find, as written by its preeminent historian. The most popular New Zealand book in 2004, this is simply the go to book on New Zealand for both pre and post European colonisation. King is able to adroitly navigate the interactions between Pakeha and Europeans in order to present them in as unbiased way as possible in order to highlight that the Treaty signed by the indigenous people of New Zealand was one in which the full implications were not ...more
Joanna P
Aug 17, 2013 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. ...more
Grant Durow
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I finally finished this book on New Zealand, and I must say it was highly informative and did a great job of addressing Maori (Indigenous New Zealanders) and Pakeha (largely European arrivals to New Zealand) throughout the book. It was interesting to see both contrasts and similarities to Australian history which I have already read about extensively. New Zealand was settled more gradually than most other settler colonial societies (ex. the US, Canada, even Australia perhaps) which has contribut ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what an impressive body of work. Very detailed yet easy to read. A little bit of repetition but this probably serves to cement the details. Definitely worth reading.
Michelle Johnson
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Jan 16, 2016 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 vol ...more
Jason Fernandes
Oct 06, 2016 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
Sydney Doidge
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, non-fiction
This book impressed me, considering that I was able to finish a 500 page history of a country I’ve never even been too! I think that speaks to the open, inviting style of Michael King and accessible the book was. It did get more bogged down towards the middle and the end, name dropping authors, artists and politicians that I was obviously supposed to have heard of (probably would’ve if I was a New Zealander) but never had. I also find politics and governance to be less interesting than natural h ...more
Ben Ezra
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Amazingly written and covered. Gives you a good general understanding of where this young nation sits in the world, and why despite that the human history of NZ is short, there is much to learn from. A young but very self-aware and proud player in the global arena.

We can’t change history but we must learn from it.

And reading history you’re reminded of how everything we do has consequences as individuals, as tribes, as subcultures and as nations. You’re reminded there isn’t much you can change ab
Hayden Weal
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wish I could time travel back and give this book to my naive, ignorant sixteen year old self.
Super cool.
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was a surprisingly easy read, considering it's the history of an entire country. I had a bit of trouble in the 20th century, but who doesn't. ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
A leading authority on New Zealand history from pre-contact, through the Treaty of Waitangi 1840 until the post-WW2 period. Michael King, a well-respected New Zealand historian, publishes what should be the starting point textbook for history classes at the secondary level. This book was my prize for being the top history student at secondary school, so holds a personal value.

Instead of comparative or biased analysis through the stock-standard ideological lenses (realist, idealist, post-modern
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Overall, it was a good primer/introductory survey of New Zealand history, ranging from the earliest Maori settlement of the island (roughly 13th century A.D.) to the 1990s.

Just about every historical account will have its biases; this is pretty much to be expected. That said, there was nothing atrocious in this book. That said, there were some pretty conspicuous thrusts that Michael King was attempting to pull off. I understand that he was attempting to make it a non-exclusively Pakeha/(occident
Melanie Lindstrom
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Essential reading for all New Zealanders. Comprehensive and beautifully written.
Don Brasch's RNZ interview motivated me to read this book. I suggest he reads it, too, to get informed.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid overview of the subject matter, aided by a structure which alternates chapters between Pakeha and Maori experiences. Nothing was covered in a great deal of depth, but for grasping the history of colonisation; the development of the main political parties and the differences between the islands, it was very helpful.
King injects an appropriate amount of opinion in - enough so you understand he has a perspective and what it is, not so much that the history leans wildly one way or another. I
Lau Hoon
Nov 01, 2013 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 08, 2016 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
Ann Tonks
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As neither an historian nor a New Zealander, I'm in no position to judge whether this is a "good" history or a "bad" history. All I can say is that after a recent visit to New Zealand recently, I wanted to know more and this book was a wonderful start. Full of historic illustrations and photos, one can clearly hear King's voice as he tells the history of the Maori and Pakeha and its a voice that seems open and curious. In other words, I found it a great read. ...more
Nicola Battson
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really interesting and well researched book - every New Zealander should read.
Daniel Scott
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every kiwi should read this, a great book
Rob Markley
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Let me say this is an excellent historical (and pre historical) summary of New Zealand - it really is! Within are some quite sharp comments and conclusions that are in no way pandering to the politically correct and are therefore well worth the read. However therein lies the problem - King pulls his punches and frankly he had to. New Zealand history is absolutely dominated by left wingers (social, political, anthropological), which willingly or otherwise King must semi pander to. A secondary pro ...more
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For me New Zealand is special in two ways. First as a land where nature was not affected by any mammals till ~14th century. And second as a land which managed to blend aboriginal and colonial cultures into a cohesive identity. I was therefore intrigued about learning what it meant and how did they got there.

I am happy I got around to get Michael King's history, because I love how he structures the book and also because he himself was a respected figure every Kiwi knew. He structures the book by
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think every Kiwi should read this, I wish I had read it earlier, it's an interesting book that walks you through a very detailed history of New Zealand. It helps one to understand how NZ society has been shaped over the years, from the landmass it is built open, the Maori's original culture to the various waves of migration from the UK, China, and other places across the world. How the first political group was founded on the principle that we would be a society unconstrained by class and that ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
New Zealand 2 10 May 13, 2015 04:27PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Once Were Warriors (Once Were Warriors Trilogy #1)
  • The Bone People
  • Auē
  • The Whale Rider
  • Wild Pork and Watercress
  • Plumb (Plumb, #1)
  • Owls Do Cry
  • Night at the Vulcan (Roderick Alleyn, #16)
  • The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding
  • What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (Once Were Warriors, #2)
  • London: The Biography
  • Days Of Darkness: Taranaki 1878 1884
  • Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End
  • In the Meantime: Finding Yourself and the Love You Want
  • Choose to be Happy
  • Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now
  • What the Fat?: Fat's IN: Sugar's OUT Practical guide and recipes
  • Everyday Grace: Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness And Making Miracles
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
21 likes · 3 comments
“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.” 1 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’.” 1 likes
More quotes…