New Zealand and the Sea: Historical Perspectives
Frances Steel (ed)
Bridget Williams Books, $60.00,
Ocean: Tales of Voyaging and Encounter that Defined New Zealand
Penguin Random House, $70.00,
Most histories of nations tend to be terrestrial-bound in their focus, and those of New Zealand are no exception. The land, after all, is where people live, where their social, cultural, and political institutions exist and evolve, and into which the roots of their sense of belonging are sunk. Yes, the sea gets a mention at times, usually as having served in an earlier era as some vast aquatic highway bringing migrants to the shore. Yet, even in this context, the sea tends to be portrayed more often as something that separates New Zealand from other countries – a generally bland oceanic backdrop to where all the “real” history takes place. Two books have now appeared which, in different ways, address aspects of the country’s relationship with the sea, and which both serve as antidotes to those many works which depict New Zealand as a place of forests and farms, cities and towns.