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Memoir Reveals Adventurous Life Of Dane With More Than 3000 New Zealand Descendants

First contact between Europeans and Māori was a haphazard affair that often led to misunderstanding and conflict, but also laid the basis for a nation. There at the outset was a man who had remade himself from Danish origins into a Pākehā-Māori.

Events in the Life of Phillip Tapsell is a global series of adventures that features a ‘who’s who’ of the nineteenth century including Napoleon Bonaparte, Horatio Nelson and Hongi Hika, with dramatic events such as the bombardment of Copenhagen, the massacre on the Boyd and the recapture of the Wellington.

Born in 1790 in Copenhagen, Hans Falk took to the sea as a lad, changed his name to Tapsell, and after many voyages settled at Maketū in the Bay of Plenty. There he became the key trader for local iwi and married into the highest levels of Te Arawa, while helping other tribes to defend themselves against invasion from northern tribes.

Celebrated in books like James Cowan’s A Trader in Cannibal Land, Tapsell’s life of daring is not well known today, and the memoir he dictated to Edward Little shortly before his death was only ever published in newspaper form.

Denmark-based academic Dr Jonathan Adams reproduces Little’s manuscript along with broad commentary and numerous illustrations — homing in on issues of culture and trade, war and peace, and Tapsell’s pivotal role in relations between the countries of his birth and death.

The book includes a foreword by Professor Paora Tapsell, one of the more than 3000 New Zealanders descended from Phillip Tapsell.

Events in the Life of Phillip Tapsell represents the first in a new series from Oratia, New Zealand Classics. The series makes available important works of national history that have been long out of print, or manuscripts that may never have been published, which hold real relevance for readers today.


Jonathan Adams is a researcher in the Department of Historical Studies (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and senior editor at the Society for Danish Language and Literature (Copenhagen, Denmark). Originally from Dorset, UK, he lives with his family in the countryside near Copenhagen.


Paora Tapsell (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Raukawa) is Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Centre of Heirage and Museum Studies at the Australian National University. An academic, researcher and museum curator, he has published three other books with Oratia: Whāriki, with Merata Kawharu; Te Ara, with Krzysztof Pfeiffer; and Pūkaki, translated by Scotty Morrison.

Events in the Life of Phillip Tapsell

Researched and edited by Jonathan Adams

Published by Oratia Books | ISBN: 978-0-947506-92-6 | RRP $45.00 PB

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