The impact of introduced diseases in the pre-Treaty period 1790-1840
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the impact of infectious introduced diseases on pre-Treaty Maori society. It addresses significant gaps in the current literature including consideration of the Pacific context from a microbiological perspective and modem analysis of an inadequate primary New Zealand literature on which present views of Maori health rely. The premise of the thesis is that few diseases could have been imported into New Zealand with the initial Polynesian immigrants, and that the impact of European introduced infectious diseases would have been greater than has been previously realised. The thesis evaluates the incidence of introduced infectious diseases, including the development of immunity, and the impact on Maori beliefs about causality and transmission, and in particular the question of whether the attribution of lung disease to an entrail-eating atua was a post-contact development. The thesis argues that rather than, as previously thought, a wholly pre-contact concept, the idea of the flesh eating lizard god was an attempt to comprehend tuberculosis, and was specific to tuberculosis. The thesis further argues while Maori initially blamed many of the diseases on 'European atua', reflecting the multiplicity of gods in their own culture, as interaction with missionaries increased the blame began to swing to the European God, and his priests, the missionaries. In response to the perception of the power of this god Papahurihia of Northland developed an anti-missionary doctrine based on biblical ideas in which the serpent of Genesis is revealed as the most powerful god. This, it is argued, is a development of the association of lizard gods with introduced tubercular disease.