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Exploring The Shadows Of Colonialism: Days Of Darkness Returns In A New Edition

A pivotal work on the history of Aotearoa returns with Hazel Riseborough’s Days of Darkness: Taranaki 1878–1884, offering a stark examination of the period that saw the invasion of Parihaka and the subsequent stand of Māori communities against colonial forces.

First published in 1989, the book uncovers the grim saga of the Crown’s aggression and settler acquisitiveness that marked the years of ‘darkness’ in Taranaki. This edition features new opening words contributed by the Parihaka community, reflecting how the book has gone on to be valued by people in Taranaki, and across Aotearoa.

The work of historian Hazel Riseborough is an uncompromising look at the strategies employed to strip away Māori rights and autonomy. As Dame Judith Binney noted when first published, Days of Darkness is ‘a study in quintessential colonialism, or the assertion of European supremacy.’ As the government seized their land, Māori communities across the region engaged in non-violent resistance, with Parihaka emerging as a powerful symbol of defiance under the leadership of Tohu Kākahi and Te Whiti o Rongomai.

Riseborough’s extensive research, which also formed the basis of her PhD thesis, is meticulously woven throughout the narrative, presenting an unflinching view of the past in order to enlighten the present. The 2023 edition, prepared posthumously in collaboration with her literary executors, Ruakere Hond and Therese Crocker, maintains the original text while incorporating slight editorial updates for clarity and modern scholarship, including a new index and enhanced illustrations.

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As the opening words from Parihaka explain, this book does not aim to catalogue tribal histories or prophetic proclamations; instead, it brings to the forefront the often-overlooked Crown documents and propaganda, laying bare the legislative movements and parliamentary decisions of the time.

Days of Darkness: Taranaki 1878–1884 is not just a recount of history; it is a call to acknowledge and learn from the acts of resistance against colonialism. It is an account of lasting significance, one that challenges us to consider the continuing impact of these ‘days of darkness’ on the nation’s conscience and future.

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