Entanglements of Empire: Missionaries, Māori, and the Question of the Body

Tony Ballantyne


The first Protestant mission to New Zealand, established in 1814, saw the beginning of complex political, cultural, and economic entanglements with Māori. Entanglements of Empire is a deft reconstruction of the cross-cultural translations of this early period. Misunderstanding was rife: the physical body itself became the most contentious site of cultural engagement, as Māori and missionaries struggled over issues of hygiene, tattooing, clothing, and sexual morality.


In this fascinating study, Tony Ballantyne explores the varying understandings of such concepts as civilization, work, time and space, and gender – and the practical consequences of the struggles over these ideas. The encounters in the classroom, chapel, kitchen, and farmyard worked mutually to affect both the Māori and the English worldviews.


Ultimately, the interest in missionary Christianity among influential Māori chiefs had far-reaching consequences for both groups. Concluding in 1840 with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the new age it ushered in, Ballantyne’s book offers important insights into this crucial period of New Zealand history.



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Tony Ballantyne (born Dunedin, 1972) is a historian whose works examine the development of imperial intellectual and cultural life in Ireland, India, New Zealand and Britain. He graduated BA at the University of Otago and obtained a PhD at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor C. A. Bayly. He is currently chair of the History Department and director of the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture at the University of Otago, but has previously taught at Washington University in St Louis, the University of Illinois, and the National University of Ireland. In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. His books include Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series, Palgrave, 2001), Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World (Duke University Press, 2006), and Webs of Empire: Locating New Zealand’s Colonial Past (Bridget Williams Books, 2012).


March 2015, 228 x 152 mm, 376 pages, illustrations, NZ rights only
Paperback, ISBN 978 1 86940 826 8, $39.99