“Coast” is a novel written by David (Carnegie) Young about three generations of men; their relationships with each other and the wild Rangitikei coast. Strong themes running through the book are ancestry and belonging (and acceptance). The narrative is largely based in the Rangitikei: in the township of Marton and the small beach settlement of Koitiata, near Turakina [click here to view map], spanning from around the turn of the 20th century through to today (or thereabouts).
The Turakina River features prominently in the narrative: as a destructive and unpredictable force which takes life in the dramatic opening scenes of the novel; as a source of food and recreation for Maori and European alike; as an ancestral place for Maori; as a source of historical relics (including shoes of the victims of the Tangiwai train disaster); and, as a dynamic and powerful forger of the landscape. Continue reading
I have often heard the region of Taranaki referred to as the “Kingdom of Taranaki”, owing to the fierce independence displayed by its long-time residents – particularly farmers, and particularly in relation to property rights. While the epithet is used facetiously, it is often underpinned by a sense of admiration for this feisty independence. But is there a reality to this perceived feistiness, and if so, is there some historical reason for it? Continue reading
When Europeans began arriving in the Canterbury region in the early 1800s, most of the swamp forest – dominated by matai, totara and kahikatea (white pine) – that covered much of the Canterbury Plains in previous centuries was gone. It is thought that it had been destroyed by a great fire that swept across the plains during the moa hunter period, leaving only a scattered bush remnants. Continue reading
So, what exactly do we mean by environmental history, and why is it so important?
As part of a newly established MSc in Landscape, Environment and History at the University of Edinburgh, Prof. Chris Smout, emeritus professor of history at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, is interviewed about what environmental history is and why it is important.* He argues that the subject area is like a stage on which various subjects come together. The difference with conventional history is that environmental history is not only concerned with people but also with nature, the landscape and the environment as a whole. However, it is not just the history of nature but more the history of human interaction with the environment.
Click here to watch this interview with Prof. T.C. Smout introducing environmental history (7 mins approx). Continue reading