New Zealand’s ‘Critics of Empire’: Domestic Opposition to New Zealand’s Pacific Empire, 1883-1948
The recent resurgence of interest in the ‘other side’ of New Zealand’s colonial history has reaffirmed the need to view the nation’s history in its Pacific context. This historiographical turn has involved taking seriously the fact that as well as being a colony of Britain, New Zealand was an empire-state and metropole in its own right, possessing a tropical, Oceanic empire. What has yet to have been attempted however is a history of the ‘other side’ of the imperial debate. Thus far the historiography has been weighted towards New Zealand’s imperial and colonial agents. By mapping metropolitan critiques of New Zealand’s imperialism and colonialism in the Pacific (1883-1948), this thesis seeks to rebalance the historiographical ledger. This research adds to our understanding of New Zealand’s involvement in the colonial Pacific by demonstrating that anticolonial struggles were not only confined to the colonies, they were also fought on the metropolitan front by colonial critics at once sympathetic to the claims of the colonised populations, and scathing of their own Government’s colonial policy. These critics were, by virtue of their status as white, metropolitan citizens, afforded greater rights and freedoms than indigenous colonial subjects, and so were able to challenge colonial policy in the public domain. At the same time this thesis demonstrates how colonial criticism reflected national anxieties. The grounds for criticism generally depended on the wider social context. In the nineteenth-century in particular, critiques often contained concerns that New Zealand’s Pacific imperialism would disrupt the sanctity of ‘White New Zealand’, however as the twentieth-century wore on criticism bore the imprint of anti-racism and increasingly supported indigenous claims for self-government. By examining a seventy year period of change, this thesis shows that at every stage of the ‘imperial process’, New Zealand’s imperialism in the Pacific was a subject open to persistent public debate.