Capsule History

by Philip Greenspun

Home : Travel : New Zealand : History

  • 26,000,000 B.C.: Southern alps rise above the ocean.
  • 700 A.D.: possible early settlement on the South Island by an archaic Maori population originating in Polynesia
  • 10C: date of discovery of New Zealand by Polynesian navigator Kupe according to Maori legend. Islands named Aotearoa, "Land of the Long White Cloud"
  • 12C: settlement of the North Island
  • 13 and 14C: "Great Migration" from the Society Islands. Dwindling moa population. Warrior society established.
  • 1642: Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovers west coast of the South Island. Dutch name the country "Nieuw Zeeland" after the Dutch island province of Zeeland.
  • 1769-70: Captain James Cook circumnavigates and charts both islands, taking possession of "New Zealand" for Britain.
  • 1820s: first European settlement (in the Bay of Islands)
  • 1830s: intertribal wars abate due to introduction of musket and wholesale slaughter
  • 1840: Treaty of Waitangi signed. Maoris cede sovereignty to Britain, obtain guarantees of land ownership and "rights and privileges of British subjects."
  • 1850-1880: "wool period" with importation of sheep from Australia. Also a period of war and conflict over land ownership.
  • 1882: Refrigerated ships introduced. Farmers turn to meat and dairy production.
  • 1893: New Zealand becomes the first country in the world to give women the vote.
  • 1914-1918: One of every three men between 20 and 40 killed or wounded fighting for Britain in World War I.
  • 1939: New Zealand sends troops to fight for the Allies in Europe.
  • 1941-45: Threatened by Japan, defended by United States Navy (eventually led to ANZUS pact in 1951, a defensive alliance with the U.S. and Australia)
  • 1947: New Zealand becomes independent by adopting Statute of Westminster.
  • 1973: Britain joins European Economic Community and adopts their trade barriers to New Zealand's agricultural products. Combined with high oil prices, this was enough to devastate the economy.
  • 1973-1984: Robert Muldoon's National Party expands welfare state and government interventionism, running huge budget deficits financed with overseas money. High inflation and unemployment cause massive emigration to Australia.
  • 1975: Treaty of Waitangi Act passed to settle Maori land claims on the basis of original treaty.
  • 1984: New Labour government eliminates agricultural subsidies and wage and price controls, lowers tax rates, begins a radical program of privatization.
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