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The Coming of the Maori


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The Coming of the Maori embodies the life-long research, study, considered opinions and conclusions of the greatest authority not only upon the Maori people and their history, traditions, customs, culture, social organization, and economic life, but on the whole of Polynesia and the Polynesians.

Sir Peter Buck is recognized throughout the world of science as an ethnologist of the highest standing. He is one of New Zealand's greatest sons. He stands as high in his own field as did Lord Rutherford in physics, Dr Cockayne in botany, or Sir Truby King in the promotion of the health of mothers and children. Sir Peter was a member of parliament for six years, a minister of the Crown for a short period, he graduated at the University of Otago Medical School, he was Director of Maori Hygiene in the Health Department, and was second-in-command of the Maori Battalion in the first world war. He is the Director of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and President of the Board of Trustees of that important institution. In addition to occupying these very responsible positions, he was a full professor at Yale University. For the greater part of his life he participated actively in New Zealand affairs generally, particularly in matters affecting the Maori people. During his association with the Bishop Museum, his opportunities for research in the wide expanses of Polynesia have been greatly extended. This book is the product of his keen and accurate observations and deductions over the full range of the islands of the Pacific.

The Coming of the Maori was originally the title of a lecture given by Sir Peter in 1925 under the auspices of the Cawthron Institute of Nelson, New Zealand, and published by that body. The lecture dealt with the history of the peopling of New Zealand by the Maori ancestors. It is the result of the author's researches into the many Hawaikis of the ancient Maori seafarers, the story of whom is so vividly told in his Vikings of page breakthe Sunrise. The publication of the lecture proved so popular that it was reprinted a few years later by the Board of Maori Ethnological Research, with the permission of the Cawthron Institute. Just before the second world war, the Maori Purposes Fund Board, which incorporated the old Board of Maori Ethnological Research, offered to bring out a new edition of the publication. When Sir Peter was approached he decided that further research had brought to light so much more information that the work should be completely rewritten.

His research work led him away from New Zealand to the centre from which the Polynesian seafarers branched out to the far corners of the Pacific. It enabled him to reconstruct the story of the Maori people on scientific lines. The present book is much more than a new edition of the old one. It is a summary of the work to which Sir Peter Buck has devoted his life. As a narrative of the bold navigators who, without compass or chart, were sailing the vast spaces of the Pacific a hundred and fifty years before Columbus ventured across the Atlantic, it is and will remain unsurpassed. As a text book on Maori ethnology it will replace all existing works, and will be hailed by students of anthropology throughout the world. It will still further enhance the author's high reputation as a world authority on Polynesian and especially on Maori history in all its geographical, economic and sociological manifestations. In this work, he stands forth as a painstaking, brilliant, and thoroughly scientific and honest research worker—indeed, a master of research. He is at once a sincere student and an architect of the past conscientiously and skilfully using the material he has discovered and proved to be authentic, accepting with gratitude much of the work of previous writers while being forced to discard some of their conclusions.

Sir Peter has infused into his writing much of his own compelling and charming personality and his quick, incisive humour. Many readers will wonder which they more appreciate—the ever interesting, indeed fascinating subject-matter of the volume, or the captivating and delightful style in which it is written.

6 July 1949