Friday, 31 January 2014

On the Progress of Civilization Among the New Zealanders

In 1856 A. S. Thomson, a surgeon with the 58th Regiment and future author of the first full-length history of New Zealand, drafted a memorandum 'On the Progress of Civilization among the New Zealanders', by which he meant Maori. As what he described as 'proofs of progressive civilization', Thomson included a table that contrasted the state of Maori in 1770, 1836, and 1856. It is a fascinating, if not always accurate, document (Thomson states flatly that strangers were not tolerated within Maori communities in 1770, and wrongly believed that the Maori population had actually increased between then and 1836). And what are we to make of the introduction of firearms, tobacco and alcohol as positive proofs of the path to civilization?

GBPP, 1860 [2719], p. 415