Dancing with the King: The Rise and Fall of the King Country, 1864–1885

Michael Belgrave

After the battle of Orakau in 1864 and the end of the war in the Waikato, Tāwhiao, the second Māori King, and his supporters were forced into an armed isolation in the Rohe Pōtae, the King Country. For the next twenty years, the King Country operated as an independent state – a land governed by the Māori King where settlers and the Crown entered at risk of their lives.

Dancing with the King is the story of the King Country when it was the King’s country, and of the negotiations between the King and the Queen that finally opened the area to European settlement. For twenty years, the King and the Queen’s representatives engaged in a dance of diplomacy involving gamesmanship, conspiracy, pageantry and hard headed politics, with the occasional act of violence or threat of it. While the Crown refused to acknowledge the King’s legitimacy, the colonial government and the settlers were forced to treat Tāwhiao as a King, to negotiate with him as the ruler and representative of a sovereign state, and to accord him the respect and formality that this involved. Colonial negotiators even made Tāwhiao offers of settlement that came very close to recognising his sovereign authority.

Dancing with the King is a riveting account of a key moment in New Zealand history as an extraordinary cast of characters – Tāwhiao and Rewi Maniapoto, Donald McLean and George Grey – negotiated the role of the King and the Queen, of Māori and Pākehā, in New Zealand.



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Michael Belgrave is a professor of history at Massey University, the author of Historical Frictions: Maori Claims and Reinvented Histories (Auckland University Press, 2005) and From Empire’s Servant to Global Citizen: A History of Massey University (Massey University Press, 2016), co-author of Social policy in Aotearoa New Zealand (Oxford University Press, 2008) and co-editor of The Treaty on the Ground: Where We Are Headed, and Why It Matters (Massey University Press, 2017). He was previously research manager of the Waitangi Tribunal and has continued to work on Treaty of Waitangi research and settlements, providing substantial research reports into a wide number of the Waitangi Tribunal’s inquiries. He received a Marsden Fund award in 2015 for study into the re-examination of the causes of the New Zealand wars of the 1860s.

October 2017, 240 x 170 mm, 452 pages
Hardback, ISBN 9781869408695, $65