New Zealand



At least 1,200 years ago, argonauts from Polynesia came to New Zealand. These Maori peoples are the country's indigenous population. Europeans first saw New Zealand in 1642 when the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named it -- although he did not claim the land for his country. The British, however, did in 1769. In 1841, it was made a full colony of Britain. Though promises were made to the Maoris that they would retain possession of their lands, they were instead displaced by British newcomers and their growing settlements. The Maori population dwindled to such an alarming extent that by the 1890s, there were reportedly less than 50,000 of them left in the country. Recently, attempts have been made to redress the wrongs of the past and payments have been negotiated for lands taken without compensation. New Zealand enacted universal suffrage in 1893; shortly thereafter, fair labor practices were guaranteed by law along with pensions, medical care, and other social services that stand as proof of the country's enlightened status for the time. In 1907, the country became an independent member of the British Commonwealth.