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Monday 3 July 2023 10:17am

By Dom Felice VaggioliArtwork and book title
Translated by John Crockett

The book

History of New Zealand and its Inhabitants is the English language translation of a lively, opinionated book by Dom Felice Vaggioli, an Italian monk who was one of the first Benedictine priests to be sent to Aotearoa NZ. While working in Auckland, the Coromandel and Gisborne during the years 1879–1887, he observed lifestyles and customs and gathered information about the country's history, including first-hand accounts of the signing of Te Tiriti and the conflicts in Taranaki and Waikato.

Back in Italy, he published his history of New Zealand in 1896, only to have most of this Italian edition destroyed by the British because Vaggioli, who was not backward in coming forward with his anti-Protestant and anti-British views, was so critical of the colonialist project. The book nearly disappeared completely, but a few copies survived.

About a century later, John Crockett was doing some research in the archive of the Auckland Catholic Diocese when the archivist showed him an old book in Italian – Storia della Nuova Zelanda by Dom Felice Vaggioli. Crockett realised he was holding a unique interpretation of the impact of colonisation on Māori and set about translating the book into English. Crockett's vivid translation of Vaggioli's work was published by Otago University Press in 2000. Out of print for several years, that edition is hard to find and much sought-after.

Now reprinted with a striking new cover, the 2023 edition of History of New Zealand and its Inhabitants brings Vaggioli's unique document into the public eye once more. This lively and sometimes controversial account of prominent historical events in nineteenth-century Aotearoa New Zealand provides a remarkable resource for people interested in Māori–Pākehā relations or the history of colonisation.


Dom Felice Vaggioli (1845–1921) was a Benedictine monk from Tuscany. Between 1879 and 1887, he was a missionary in New Zealand, holding posts in Gisborne, Auckland and Coromandel. John Crockett has a theology degree from Rome, a BA in history and Italian and an MA in applied sociology. He has worked as a social worker and counsellor in Auckland. His translation of Vaggioli's autobiography A Deserter's Adventures was published by Otago University Press in 2001. John lives in Kerikeri with his wife, Jennifer. His most recent novel, Called, is loosely based on Vaggioli's adventures in New Zealand and his return to Italy as Abbot of San Giorgio monastery in Venice.

Publication details

Paperback, 240 x 170mm, 352pp
ISBN 9781990048623, RRP $50
IN-STORE: 26 October 2023

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