When Two Cultures Meet is a sustained
attack on the generally accepted interpretations of the
British colonisation of New Zealand and of the Treaty of
Writing of one academic's off-record comment on his views on
the DPB, Robinson says that there is a link between that
experience and the familiar distortions of many
''revisionist'' historians and the Treaty industry ''the
craven cowardice of New Zealand academics and researchers,
who are, for the most part, not willing to speak forthrightly
about fundamental issues, as their job takes priority over
Under the heading ''The new apartheid society'', Robinson
criticises the parliamentary leadership of the National
Party, under former currency trader John Key, ''for ruling
contrary to their policy and against the interest of most New
Zealanders who voted them into office''.
The book has 280 pages. The first 210 take the reader from
first contact to the end of the 19th century. Fifty pages
cover the 20th century and the remaining pages talk about two
options for the future, ''one nation'' and ''separation''.
The major section generally favours colonial or early 20th
century historians over modern revisionists, some of whom he
labels ''barmy''. At times he quotes so extensively from old
books that When Two Cultures Meet reads like a ''quote
and connect'' exercise. There is no sign of use of original
documents in the archives and I found it surprising that he
did not cite the most illuminating work on the differences
between academic history and the judicial history of the
Waitangi Tribunal, Michael Belgrave's Historical
While some of the revisionists he attacks so freely would
agree that ''all too often Maori are downgraded to a weak
recipient people being acted upon by newcomers'' and others
might question the constitutional review now under way ,
Robinson's style will alienate many.
The book needed editing, to tone down prose more than the
message, lose silly sweeping assertions such as ''many
historians are scarcely numerate and scared of numbers'' and
to clean up many little infelicities (e.g, erratic sentence
spacing) and errors (like confusing writer Geoff Chapple with
researcher Simon Chapple).
Gavin McLean is a Wellington historian.