Between 1845 and 1872, various groups of Maori were involved in a series of wars of resistance against British settlers. The Maori had a fierce and long-established warrior tradition and subduing them took a lengthy British Army commitment, only surpassed in the Victorian period by that on the North-West Frontier of India. Warfare had been endemic in pre-colonial New Zealand and Maori groups maintained fortified villages or pas. The small early British coastal settlements were tolerated, and in the 1820s a chief named Hongi Hika travelled to Britain with a missionary and returned laden with gifts. He promptly exchanged these for muskets, and began an aggressive 15-year expansion. By the 1860s many Maori had acquired firearms and had perfected their bush-warfare tactics. In the last phase of the wars a religious movement, Pai Maarire ('Hau Hau'), inspired remarkable guerrilla leaders such as Te Kooti Arikirangi to renewed resistance. This final phase saw a reduction in British Army forces. European victory was not total, but led to a negotiated peace that preserved some of the Maori people's territories and freedoms.
The Zulu War of 1879 remains one of the best known British colonial wars and included two battles whose names reverberate through history. At Isandlwana the Zulus inflicted a crushing defeat on the British; the gallant British defence at Rorke's Drift followed and re-established British prestige. Yet as this book shows, there was more to the war than this. Six months of brutal fighting followed, until the Zulu kingdom was broken up, its king imprisoned and the whole structure of the Zulu state destroyed. Years of internecine strife followed, until the British finally annexed Zululand as a colonial possession.