Our First Foreign War review


‘If you like your history richly-layered then this is just the title for you, with the added bonus that it covers a part of the New Zealand story not much explored.

‘For the Boer War, as it used to be called, came after the New Zealand Wars and not long before the Great War, both of which cast long and deep shadows over the period.

‘Nor did the South African War last terribly long, although it did involve about 6500 Kiwi troops, of whom perhaps 182 died in South Africa–yet more died from typhoid than bullets, it seems. The exact number of deaths may never be known, adds author Robson, a senior Māori Crown Relations historian.

‘But he writes that because he has been able to identify and contact families of some of those who served in South Africa, he has gained access to information not previously mentioned in the historical record.

‘That means in addition to the usual kinds of sources that historians use, such as letters, newspaper reports and archive records, he has been able to integrate material which brings a flavour to the work not always felt in such accounts of the past.

‘The upshot is he has also been able to shine a light on a wide range of New Zealand life and times as they were shaped by the war and the mentalities that drove Kiwis to so warmly embrace the British imperial cause – while at the same time developing a nascent sense of national identity.’

Read the full review at Stuff here.