This is, as its title suggests, an unusual contribution to our understanding of New Zealand’s cultural heritage. For not only does it look beyond Britain for impressions of pre-contact and early contact Māori life, it presents its view from a very French perspective.
To most New Zealanders, the extent and depth of contact between these two disparate races will come as quite a surprise. High time then, that this collection of contributions from some of the foremost authorities on the subject be published.
All too often in the rush to re-examine and re-interpret the tumultuous events of our history, we forget the other players who contributed to weaving together the fabric of New Zealand. Such was France, a colonial power forced to take a backseat to the more quickly organised English, but who nevertheless worked long and hard among the Māori people and whose influence remains in many modern institutions.
Sadly it is not possible to provide a picture of the French as seen by Māori, for such record have yet to be discovered, if indeed they exist. So we content ourselves with this glimpse of an emerging world, where many Māori learned to converse not in English but in French, and where French travellers, scientists, artists, novelists, and missionaries attempted to explain Māori life to the European mind.
Published in 1992.