July 2012


I have been reading Kenneth B. Cumberland’s “Landmarks” (1981), a story of the human transformation of New Zealand. One of the many characters who makes his appearance in this story is Chew Chong, a pigtailed pedlar who had come to Otago, New Zealand in 1867, during the gold boom. He eventually made his way up to Taranaki, where a fledgling dairy industry was becoming established. (more…)

This post follows on from the previous post Did European settlers loathe theĀ forest? While I am largely satisfied with the idea that European settlers destroyed the forest driven by the need to make productive use of the land, rather than any deep-seated loathing of it or what it represented, this still does not explain the extent to which forest – lowland forest especially – was destroyed. It was, by and large, decimated. (more…)

In 1969, geographer Paul Shepard published a monograph entitled “English reaction to the New Zealand landscape before 1850″, in which he explored the various attitudes of English immigrants towards the indigenous landscape, particularly the forest, in this early settlement period. He review of the written accounts by early settlers and observers found that the most prevalent view of the forest was negative: it was described as “dreary”, “dismal”, “gloomy”, and seen as the antithesis of civilization and morality.

Since then, a number of historians and historical geographers have explored this question further, including Jock Phillips in his 1981 paper “Fear and loathing of the New Zealand landscape”, and Paul Star in his 2003 article “New Zealand environmental history: a question of attitudes”. (more…)

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