As part of our drive to keep our comment section the best in New Zealand from this week onwards, we will be showcasing each week an example of a top-notch comment that adds value to The BFD.

Today’s comment was written by Brian Dingwall. Thank you Brian for taking the time to craft such an interesting comment.

In view of all the hoohaa over the changing of the NZ school history syllabus, it occurred to me that I was ignorant, not only as a general proposition, but specifically about the Great Britain of 1840. What was going on there? Given the penchant of bureaucrats for lengthy legal documents, why was the founding document of NZ, so anachronistically important to us today, only three paragraphs?

So I did a quick and admittedly superficial search…..which showed just how poor my education about one of the two parties to our Glorious Treaty really was. Let me show this with a few questions…. only two of which I could answer correctly with any confidence.
In 1840:

  • Who was the British Prime Minister?
  • Who succeeded him in 1841?
  • What event on Feb 10th, 4 days after the Treaty signing, captured the hearts and minds of the British people?
  • Were the British involved in any wars in 1840?
  • Name one of them.
  • What other international treaties were signed, or colonies formed that year?
  • An explorer left Britain that year for his first trip to Africa, who?

Given the above, as well as the goings on in the penal colonies, and in India, and the usual scheming and intrigues of European politics and royal shenanigans, how busy do we think the Foreign Office was that year? Is it any wonder that our Glorious treaty was only three paragraphs?

The Prime Minister was William Lamb, succeeded in 1841 by Sir Robert Peel. The big event was, of course, the royal wedding of Victoria and her cousin Albert.

There were two on-going wars in progress, the first Opium War in China, and the “Disaster in Afghanistan.” In 1840 Parliament passed the Act of Union which resulted in the formation of the Province of Canada early in 1841.

The explorer was, of course, David Livingstone (this puts the timing of the colonisation of Africa into perspective of time).

It was also interesting to learn that the Brits tended to start with commerce (East India Company, Hudson Bay Company), then to protect that commerce with military strength, then reach some rapprochement with local people, who the trade had already enriched.

None of this is to judge the people of that time. Really I just wanted to highlight that we don’t hear much about contemporary Britain when we talk about the relationship established by the Treaty.

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The BFD Staff

The BFD Staff

A contribution from The BFD staff.