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Dissenting voices — New Zealand and the South African War 1899-1902

The South African War was the first overseas conflict to involve New Zealand troops. Patriotic fervour engulfed the country, those who questioned British actions in South Africa, or criticised the widespread support for the conflict, risked public vilification. Nigel Robson, the author of Our First Foreign War, examines opposition within New Zealand to the South African War

New Zealand opposition to the South African war

Nigel Robson, the author of Our First Foreign War (Massey University Press, 2021), examines opposition within New Zealand to the South African War 1899-1902.
At a time when patriotic fervour engulfed the country, those who questioned British actions in South Africa, or criticised the widespread support for the conflict that characterized New Zealand’s response, risked public vilification and being labelled a ‘pro-Boer’.

From J. Grattan Grey, the Hansard chief reporter who described the ‘wave of imperialism’ sweeping Australasia in the New York Times, to Charlotte Bewicke, who raised funds for sick and injured Boers, dissenters who publicly voiced opposition to the war displayed both determination and fortitude.

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These free public history talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and Manatu Taonga/Ministry for Culture and Heritage. They are usually held on the first Wednesday of the month from Mar to Nov.

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About the speaker

Nigel Robson is a senior historian at the Office of Māori Crown Relations — Te Arawhiti. He has contributed articles to journals, including ‘A Warrior Chief: Tuta Nihoniho, Porourangi and Māori in the Second Boer War 1899–1902’, ‘The Volunteers: The Journal of the New Zealand Military Historical Society’ (2012), and presented conference papers, including ‘Chinaman and Trooper’, a paper examining the impact of the South African War on New Zealand’s Chinese community and ‘What a Trophy for One Christian to Loot from Another!’, a paper which examined the looting of religious items by New Zealand soldiers in South Africa during the South African War. Our First Foreign War is his first book.

Our first foreign war, the impact of the South African War 1899-1902 on New Zealand Nigel Robson. Image of a soldier shooting while on a horse and also a photo of a large crowd around a monument.
Cover of Our First Foreign War (Massey University Press, 2021) by Nigel Robson.