Options and opportunities for New Zealand and France 1918-1935 : les liaisons dangereuses? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
The New Zealand histories typically assert that a new national identity evolved after World War I to substitute for the pre-war British-based model. This assumption has resulted in the creation of a British-centric historiography that understates the important role of other non-British influencers – especially the French – in the evolution of post-war New Zealand. Systematic sampling of newspaper articles in the PapersPast database has revealed that within New Zealand’s post-1918 public discourse there was a diverse seam of opinion and news related to France that sat alongside that from Britain. This suggests that events concerning France were more prevalent in shaping the New Zealand story than the earlier histories have indicated. These additional perspectives have been integrated into aspects of the New Zealand post-World War I narrative, supplemented where appropriate with articles from French newspapers and the archive.
When the First World War finally ended, New Zealand attempted to disengage from Europe in order to put the collective national trauma in the past. Resuming the traditional dislike of the French was a reflexive rejection of the war years rather than a considered policy. It was a self-imposed rather than an obligatory restraint which manifested as official resistance to repatriating bodies and haste in preparing the local monuments that replicated the grander memorials being constructed in France. Thus, when France attempted to maintain contact with her New Zealand ally through trade and diplomacy, the clear wish of New Zealand to identify as a British-dependent entity led to rejection. Nevertheless, France remained a significant global power owing to the Versailles Treaty and post-war political and economic realities. As a result New Zealand was reluctantly drawn into further interactions with the French. As the other Dominions chose a more independent path it was New Zealand - having spurned the French overtures – that was left by choice diplomatically isolated, while clinging culturally, economically and diplomatically to the remnants of a British Empire that had no need for the former colony.
Figures 7, 8 & 9 were removed as the author tried unsuccessfully to obtain permission for their reproduction from the family representative (Alexander Turnbull Library catalogue record https://tiaki.natlib.govt.nz/#details=ecatalogue.452950).