- LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0148
- LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0148
Military conflict has had a defining effect in New Zealand’s history and in shaping the nation. Before the arrival of European settlers to New Zealand in significant numbers, intertribal warfare between the Māori inhabitants was endemic and often brutal. The arrival of Europeans with advanced weaponry gave these tribal clashes an even deadlier edge as Māori eagerly sought access to these weapons, especially muskets. This initiated a period in New Zealand’s history known as the Musket Wars, which occurred in the first four decades of the 19th century. The end of the Musket Wars in 1839 did not usher in a period of lasting peace in New Zealand. From 1843 until 1872, a series of violent clashes occurred between some Māori tribes of the North Island and the British imperial and colonial settlers, often supported by Māori allies who were the traditional enemies of those tribes warring against the settlers. These were the New Zealand Wars, also referred to as the Māori Wars, the Anglo-Māori Wars, or the Land Wars. New Zealand’s next significant military conflict was not until 1899. With the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in October of that year, New Zealand eagerly offered volunteers. This would be the first time New Zealand troops fought in an overseas conflict, and it precipitated a trend that continues well into the 21st century. New Zealand, despite its small size and great distance from the sites of conflict, has chosen to become involved in the global wars of the last 110 years. Through its historical connections to Britain, but also aware of its own security needs, New Zealand took a full and active role in both world wars of the 20th century. Through its alliance with the United States in 1951, its remaining links with Britain, regional and national security concerns, and the desire to be seen as an active, engaged world citizen, New Zealand took an active part in the limited wars associated with the Cold War. This led to deployments to Malaya, Borneo, Korea, and Vietnam. Since the end of the Vietnam War, and with the ending of the US alliance, New Zealand has been involved in several peacekeeping operations, usually in association with the United Nations. New Zealand military personnel have been deployed to such diverse places as Bosnia, Somalia, East Timor, and the Solomons. As part of the war on terror, New Zealand sent military personnel to Afghanistan to the province of Bamiyan where they stayed for more than a decade. Despite its nation-shaping effect, New Zealand military history remains a much-neglected subject of research and study in the country’s universities.
As of the early 21st century, a scholarly, general overview of New Zealand’s military history is not yet available, and this is a serious omission from its military literature. King 1981 on New Zealanders at war is probably the closest, but its coverage is relatively light. King’s general history of New Zealand (King 2003) has some good, solid chapters on the New Zealand Wars and New Zealand’s military engagements of the 20th century. James Belich’s two-volume history also offers coverage of New Zealand’s military involvements (Belich 1996, Belich 2001). Two outstanding general reference works are the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History (McGibbon 2000) and the online Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand (Jock Phillips is the general editor). The coverage and use of various sources in McLean, et al. 2009 provides a comprehensive guide to New Zealand war writing. McGibbon 1990, Clarke 2005, and Rabel 2009 provide useful overviews focusing primarily on the 20th century.
Belich, James. Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders; From Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century. Auckland, New Zealand: Allen Lane, 1996.
This is the first volume of a highly regarded general history of New Zealand. It offers a scholarly treatment of both the Musket Wars and the New Zealand Wars of the 19th century.
Belich, James. Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000. Auckland, New Zealand: Allen Lane, 2001.
New Zealand’s involvement in wars far away from its own shores and the impact that they had on the country is a major theme of Belich’s second volume of his general history.
Clarke, Stephen. “‘Hear Our Voices’: New Zealand in the Twentieth Century; A Small Power Ally.” In Entangling Alliances: Coalition Warfare in the Twentieth Century. Edited by Peter Dennis and Jeffrey Grey, 194–221. Canberra: Australian History Military Publications, 2005.
A survey of New Zealand’s military alliances in the 20th century and the struggle for the views of such a small nation to be heard.
King, Michael. New Zealanders at War. Auckland, New Zealand: Heinemann, 1981.
A compression of New Zealand’s military history into a lavishly illustrated single volume containing over 400 images. Its coverage is impressive but relatively light in some areas.
King, Michael. The Penguin History of New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Penguin, 2003.
Regarded by many historians and writers as the best general history of New Zealand produced in the last twenty years. The Musket Wars, New Zealand Wars, and the two world wars of the 20th century receive considerable coverage.
McGibbon, Ian. “The Australia–New Zealand Defence Relationships since 1901.” Revue International d’Histoire Militaire: Edition Australienne 72 (1990): 123–145.
A survey of often problematic, sometimes divergent defense relations of two very close neighbors from 1901 to 1990.
McGibbon, Ian, ed. The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press, 2000.
This book is an important general reference. It offers the most comprehensive guide to New Zealand’s military history yet published.
McLean, Gavin, and Ian McGibbon with Kynan Gentry, eds. The Penguin Book of New Zealanders at War. Rosedale, New Zealand: Penguin, 2009.
A useful anthology of New Zealanders writing about their war experiences, this book covers the period from the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s up to the New Zealand deployments to Afghanistan. It uses the letters, diaries, and memoirs of those who were there to tell a compelling story. An overview of published works in New Zealand on war and a select bibliography are useful additions.
Rabel, Roberto. “New Zealand’s Wars.” In The New Oxford History of New Zealand. Edited by Giselle Byrnes, 245–267. South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, 2009.
This chapter is a scholarly overview of New Zealand’s war experience from 1843 until the mid-1980s. The chapter is marred somewhat by the tone it adopts toward its subject and military historians and by its determination to prove that war has nothing to do with national identity.
Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Culture and Heritage.
Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand is a comprehensive online guide to New Zealand history, culture, economy, demography, and society. A key theme is New Zealand’s military history, especially linking the war experiences to social change in New Zealand.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- 1812, War of
- Aerial Bombardment, Ethics of
- Afghanistan, Wars in
- Africa, Gunpowder and Colonial Campaigns in
- African Wars of Independence
- Air Transport
- Allenby, Edmund
- All-Volunteer Army, Post-Vietnam Through 2016
- American Colonial Wars
- American Indian Wars
- American War of Independence
- Animals and the Military
- Antietam, Battle of
- Arab-Israeli Wars, 1948-Present
- Arctic Warfare
- Armed Forces of the Ottoman Empire, 1683–1918
- Armored War
- Arms Control and Disarmament
- Army, Roman
- Artists and War Art
- Australia from the Colonial Era to the Present
- Austrian Succession, War of the
- Austro-Hungarian Armed Forces
- Balkan Liberation, 1878–1913, Wars of
- Battle of Salamis: 480 BC
- Boer Wars
- Bonaparte, Napoleon
- Brazilian Armed Forces
- Britain and the Blitz
- British Armed Forces, from the Glorious Revolution to Pres...
- British Army in World War II
- British Army of the Rhine, The
- British-India Armies from 1740 to 1849
- Canada from World War I to the Present
- Canada through World War I
- Cavalry since 1500
- China's Modern Wars, 1911-1979
- Chinese Civil War, 1945-1949
- Clausewitz, Carl von
- Coalition and Alliance War
- Cold War, 1945-1990
- Communications, French Revolution to Present
- Conquest of Mexico and Peru
- Cornwallis, Charles
- Counterinsurgency in the Modern World
- Cromwell, Oliver
- Crusades, The
- Defense Industries
- Dien Bien Phu, Battle of
- Dominion Armies in World War II
- European Wars, Mid-Nineteenth-Century
- Frederick the Great
- French Armies, Early Modern
- French Military, 1919-1940
- French Revolutionary Wars, The
- German Air Forces
- German Army, 1871–1945
- German Sea Power, 1848-1918
- German Unification, Wars of
- Grant, Ulysses S.
- Guerrilla Warfare, Pre-20th-Century
- Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert, Jacques Antoine
- Hundred Days Campaign of 1918
- Hundred Years War
- Hungary, Warfare in Medieval and Early Modern
- Imperial China, War in
- India 'Mutiny' and 'Revolution,' 1857-1858
- Indian Army in World War I
- Indian Warfare, Ancient
- India-Pakistan Wars
- Indochina Wars, 1946-1975
- Information Warfare
- Intelligence, Military
- International Efforts to Control War
- Iraq Wars, 1980s-Present
- Irish Civil War, 1922–1923
- Irish Revolution, 1911-1923, The
- Italian Armed Forces in the Modern Age
- Italian Campaign, World War I
- Japanese Army in the World War II Era, The Imperial
- Japanese Navy
- Jomini, Antoine-Henri
- Justice, Military, the Anglo-American Tradition
- Justice of War and Justice in War
- Khan, Genghis
- Kursk, Battle of
- Lee, Robert E.
- Lepizig, Battle of
- Literature and Drama, War in
- Loos, Battle of
- Louis XIV, Wars of
- Low-Intensity Operations
- Manzikert, Battle of
- Medicine, Military
- Medieval Japan, 900-1600
- Meuse-Argonne Offensive
- Mexico and the United States, 1836–1848, Wars of
- Midway, Battle of
- Military Officers, United States
- Modern Piracy
- Mongol Wars
- Montgomery, Bernard Law
- Music and War
- Napoleonic Wars, The
- Napoleonic Wars, War and Memory in the
- Navy, British
- Nelson, Horatio
- New Zealand
- Nimitz, Chester
- Nuclear Culture
- Nuclear Weapons
- Occupations and Military Government
- Operational Art
- Ottoman Navy
- Passchaendale, Battle of
- Patton, George
- Peninsular War
- Polish Armed Forces, 1918-present
- Political Purges in the 20th Century
- Poltava, Battle of
- Popular Culture and Modern War
- Psychiatric Casualties
- Race in the US Military
- Red Cross
- Religio-Military Orders
- Roman Empire
- Roses, Wars of the
- Russian and Soviet Armed Forces
- Russian Campaign of 1812
- Russian Civil War, 1918-1921
- Russian Military History
- Russian Military History, 1762-1825
- Russo-Japanese War
- Safavid Army
- Sailing Warships
- Science and Technology in War
- Science Fiction, Military
- Semi-Military and Paramilitary Organizations
- Seven Years' War
- Seven Years' War in North America, The
- Sino-Japanese Wars, 1895-1945
- South West Pacific, 1941–1945, Campaigns in
- Southeast Asian Military History, Colonial
- Southeast Asian Military History, Precolonial
- Space and War
- Spain since the Reconquista
- Spanish Civil War
- Special Operations Forces
- Special Operations Forces
- Stalingrad, Battle of
- Steppe Nomadic Warfare
- Submarine Warfare
- Swedish Armed Forces
- Tet Offensive
- The Allied Bombardment of Occupied Europe During World War...
- The United States and the Middle East, 1945-2001
- Thirty Years War, 1618–1648
- Trench Warfare
- United States Marine Corps, The
- Urban Warfare
- US Air Force
- US Air Power
- US Army
- Verdun, Battle of
- Vietnam War
- Vietnam War in Hollywood Feature Films
- War, Chemical and Biological
- War Correspondents
- War, Culture of
- War of the Spanish Succession, 1701–1714
- Warfare, Precolonial, in Africa
- Warships, Steam
- Women in the Military
- World War I in Film
- World War I Origins
- World War I: The Western Front
- World War II and the Far East
- World War II in Film
- World War II in the Mediterranean and Middle East
- World War II, Indian Army in
- World War II, Russo-German War
- Yugoslavian Civil War, 1991-1999
- Zhukov, Georgii
- Zulu Wars