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Wellington symposium delves into First World War and its legacy

From the Russian Revolution, suffrage protest in America and the horrendous death toll on the Western Front at Passchendaele, to the fate of Palestine and the birth of modern Iraq, 1917 was a defining year in world history.

What happened then and what it means for us today is the subject of a symposium being held in Wellington in April 2017.

Supported by Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage "The Myriad Faces of War: 1917 and its legacy"  brings together speakers from around the world to discuss the impact of the First World War and other significant events.

Speaker Monty Soutar, Senior Māori Historian, Manatū Taonga, will discuss the consequences for Māori so people gain a greater understanding of the Māori situation after the First World War.

“Most importantly the Military Service Act 1916 was extended to include the conscription of Māori, especially Waikato iwi, who the Minister of Defence claimed, had not answered the call to enlist voluntarily,” Monty Soutar says.

“This had long-lasting consequences, dominating political activities after the war leading to the investigation of Māori grievances that, as one politician put it, ‘had arisen from unfulfilled promises, arbitrary acts of Government land-purchase officers or, most serious of all, from the punitively excessive confiscation of Maori land’.”

The symposium’s diverse programme covers propaganda, poetry and patriotic songs, the advent of plastic surgery, submarine warfare, the impact of war in Austria, Germany and Latin America, mythology, memorialisation and masculinity, as well as New Zealand’s emerging national identity.

New Zealand historians Jock Phillips and Glyn Harper join Monty Soutar, with international war and culture studies specialists Jay Winter, Annette Becker and Michael Neiberg also leading discussion.

With some 60 speakers, organising committee member Professor Kingsley Baird says it’s unlikely such a gathering of knowledge on the First World War will assemble again in New Zealand for some time.

Held at Te Papa Tongarewa from April 25 to 28, the event is jointly organised by WHAM (War History Heritage Art and Memory) Research Network, Massey University, Auckland War Memorial Museum, the University of Auckland and Manatū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Check the "Myriad Faces of War" website for more information and to register.


Contact: Christine Seymour, phone 04 499-4229 ext 514, or 027 807 9400,

Updated on 13th April 2017