History of New Zealand and its Inhabitants
|Title||History of New Zealand and its Inhabitants|
|Author||Felice Vaggioli, translated by John C. Crockett|
|Year||2000 (originally published in Italian in 1896)|
|Publisher||University of Otago Press|
|Topic||Felice Vaggioli, Catholic, Priest, Missionaries, Clero, Māori, Italian Missionaries, Missionari italiani in Nuova Zelanda, Māori, Italian priests in New Zealand,|
Originally published in Italy in 1896 as Storia della Nuova Zelanda e dei suoi abitatori, the book has waited over a century to be translated into English.
The author, Dom Felice Vaggioli, was one of the first Benedictine priests to be sent to New Zealand. Between 1879 and 1887 Vaggioli was first appointed parish priest in Gisborne, and was entrusted with the job of clearing the parish debt. He then performed similar tasks at St Benedict’s church in Newton, Auckland. However, the stress of debt collecting resulted in his health deteriorating and after a brief holiday he was appointed to Coromandel. While in New Zealand, he gathered information, including first-hand accounts of Treaty of Waitangi signings, and of the Taranaki and Waikato wars.
On his return to Italy, Vaggioli responded to numerous requests (including a Papal directive) for information about New Zealand by writing this History. The result is a document that is unique in our nineteenth-century literature, a lively, opinionated and potentially controversial book, which anticipates by nearly a century the writings of people like Ranginui Walker and Claudia Orange. While his anti-British and anti-Protestant bias is evident, Vaggioli rigorously backs up his arguments with quotes from numerous sources.
History of New Zealand has languished in obscurity until now, because it has been available in Italian only, and also because only a handful of copies of the original edition have survived. Most of the Italian edition was destroyed at the beginning of the twentieth century, following pressure from the British government, due to the work’s severe criticism of British colonial policy.
Had it not been for a chance occasion, the book might have remained relatively unknown. A few years ago John Crockett was doing some research in the archive of the Auckland Catholic Diocese when the archivist, Rev. Bruce Bolland, showed him an old book in Italian – Storia della Nuova Zelanda. It quickly became apparent to Crockett that he should translate the book into English, as it provided a unique interpretation of the impact of colonisation on the Maori.
Vaggioli’s writing style is dramatic and racy, and Crockett has retained this in his translation. The book is a terrific read of nineteenth century New Zealand history. Anyone interested in Māori–Pākehā relations or the history of colonisation will want to read this remarkable source. In 2001 Crockett also translated Vaggioli autobiography A Deserter's Adventures which was held in the archives of Viaggioli's monastery in Italy and had never been published before.