Controversial Book On The “Creator” Of New Zealand Released

Press Release – Auckland University of Technology

After fifteen years of research in archives all over the world, Auckland University of Technology historian Professor Paul Moon, has finally published the first full biography of James Busby – the British Resident to New Zealand in the 1830s – who wrote the country’s Declaration of Independence (1835), and was co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840).

The Rise and Fall of James Busby chronicles Busby’s youth, his extraordinary life in Australia, and his highly controversial career in New Zealand. Busby’s reputation has suffered at the hands of generations of historians who have lined up to condemn him, but this book reveals a different and in some ways even more disturbing impression of a man whose enormous achievements were overshadowed by his growing obsessions.

Busby also shines a new light on New Zealand’s Declaration of Independence (1835), showing how the agreement was still-born in New Zealand, and regarded as a failure (and worse) by Busby’s superiors. Yet, he remained convinced of its value, and came to see himself as the country’s political leader by the late 1830s.

Dismissed by the Government in 1840, Busby spent the last three decades of his life entangled with debts and bitter feuds. On one occasion, desperation even led him to suing himself in court! Yet, although his death was barely acknowledged in New Zealand, Busby had single-handedly advanced the idea of a New Zealand state with its own parliament and laws, and paved the way for the Treaty of Waitangi.

This book depicts New Zealand’s colonial history through Busby’s eyes, with the reader encountering events as he did, with all the uncertainty, fear and intrigue that dogged his career. The revelations are sometimes startling, and often controversial. This biography is a crucial source for anyone concerned with New Zealand’s formation.

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