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History, European Contact

Marion Dufresne, Surville, Maori society, Maori population, religious conversion

According to legend, Europeans may have visited New Zealand as early as 1504. The first documented visit was by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. Maori killed four of Tasmanís crew, helping to discourage further visits until British explorer Captain James Cook arrived in 1769, during the first of his three voyages of exploration in the South Pacific Ocean. He returned to New Zealand during each of these voyages. Early French expeditions to the islands included those of Jean-Francois Marie de Surville, who arrived shortly after Cook in 1769, and Marion Dufresne, who was killed by Maori in the Bay of Islands in 1772.

Sealing expeditions to the southern coasts and islands (where seals had survived Maori hunting) began in the 1790s. Oceangoing whalers began to make visits in about 1800, and shore whaling, trading, and lumbering began in the 1820s. Missionaries arrived in 1814. There were less than 1,000 permanent European settlers before the late 1830s, but short-term visitors were much more numerous. Whale hunters from New England were probably the largest single group of temporary settlers. Hundreds of their ships called at the Bay of Islands for water, fresh food, and recreation. Australians of European descent also made early contact in New Zealand.

European contact from 1790 to 1840 changed Maori society in many ways. New plants and animals, notably potatoes and pigs, and metal tools made life easier. Maori engaged eagerly with Christianity from about 1830, although they modified the new belief system for their own purposes and used religious conversion as a way of gaining literacy and mana. The introduction of European guns, however, triggered the Musket Wars (1818-1835), fierce intertribal conflicts that left thousands dead. These wars ended when muskets became evenly distributed among rival tribes. European-introduced diseases such as influenza and measles also took their toll on the Maori. Loss of life was substantial; the Maori population dropped from about 85,000 in 1769 to about 60,000 in the 1850s. Overall, however, Maori society bent but did not break under the weight of European contact.

Article key phrases:

Marion Dufresne, Surville, Maori society, Maori population, religious conversion, muskets, metal tools, lumbering, Bay of Islands, South Pacific Ocean, mana, influenza, measles, Maori, pigs, potatoes, life easier, Europeans, fresh food, Christianity, New England, New plants, seals, legend, literacy, diseases, ships, recreation, New Zealand, animals, visits, trading, toll, water, ways, Hundreds, purposes, Loss of life


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