A few more thoughts on Max Hill

I found a wonderful little article in the Franklin eLocal on Max Hill and “To the Ends of the Earth,” which you can read here. Some highlights.

Max was told years ago by Michael King that it’s well known the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in NZ before Abel Tasman’s 1642 visit. He’d noticed that some ancient European maps showed the Antipodes, and he gathered the courage to challenge current conceptions of New Zealand’s history, and uncover what he believes to be the truth about who really came to NewZealand first. When a letter-writer to the Waikato Times claimed that Kupe was an unparalleled navigator who made European mariners look like they had achieved nothing, Max’s replies gained support from the paper’s assistant editor, and he was then brought into contact with an entire counterculture of alternative New Zealand historians, brave thinkers who value the truth more than their tribe. John Tasker, Gary Cook, Noel Hilliam, Martin Doutre and Brian Mitchell – highly respected in their field and the authors of many books and websites between them – have all contributed to the 100 years of research crystallised in Max’s book.

“brave thinkers who value the truth more than their tribe. John Tasker, Gary Cook, Noel Hilliam, Martin Doutre and Brian Mitchell – highly respected in their field and the authors of many books and websites between them” – What a phrase. It’s also quite a tricky proposition: Hilliam, for example, does have a certain amount of kudos with respect to his work on shipwrecks off of our coast.

But it’s a mistake to confuse whatever “expertise” Hilliam has about shipwrecks with his views about our pre-history.

To The Ends of the Earth has also gained support from distinctive names, including David Bellamy, Professor John McCraw and Dr Paul Moon.

Moon does get mentioned in Hill’s book:

However, it’s not exactly a glowing endorsement, and who knows what he said about the earlier draft. It’s also not support in the sense of “I believe the arguments in this volume are top notch.” It sounds more like polite distancing and disinterest.

Max has never been discredited.

I don’t know whether that’s true, but it could be because no one has previously bothered to discredit his theories. As I said in the full review, many academics just won’t bother to deal with people like Hill, because views like his are so out there that it’s just not reasonable to think they need to be debunked point-by-point.

This is basically a burden of proof argument: Hill has put forward a really very controversial view and thus thee is no duty on the part of the academic community to go through and critique it line-by-line (although sometimes we will). No, the burden of proof is on Hill to show that his argument trumps the orthodix view, and because of systemic errors, reliance on false authorities and the like, he doesn’t discharge that burden and thus, even after writing a monstrous tome like “To the Ends of the Earth,” he is still at square one.

What Max wants from his book is for European Kiwis to realise they may deserve to be recognised as tangata whenua. “I’m tired of being told we’re visitors to our own land,” he tells me.

Even if Hill is right and there was a pre-Māori people in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu, that doesn’t make modern-day Pākehā and Tau Iwi in anyway indigenous to this place. Even if the Greeks got here first, for example, they certainly didn’t survive as a culture post the arrival of the Māori. We (modern day Pākehā and Tau Iwi) are visitors, insofar as we came after the Māori settled this place and our establishment here is due to Te Tiriti O Waitangi. Even if the Greeks, or the Egyptians, or the Celts were here, we’re not their descendants. At best we might be their very distant cousins (and thus visiting cousins from the old country).

The Historic Places Trust has looked at some of Max’s research, and privately said that Max’s research is worthy of worldwide publication, but the Trust won’t say the same publicly, as it’s answerable to a government which is preoccupied with appeasing Maori.

I love these kinds of claims in conspiracy theory literature: “Privately, X agrees with me, but X can’t say that because [CONSPIRACY!]” I’d love to know whether Hill is telling the truth here and, if so, who it was who told him that (because even if he is telling the truth, we can’t say much more without knowing who that person was, what their qualifications are and what role they play at the trust).

Those are just the edited highlights: the article has many more wonderful examples just waiting for you to read.


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.

5 comments:

  1. “What Max wants from his book is for European Kiwis to real­ise they may deserve to be recog­nised as tangata whenua. “I’m tired of being told we’re vis­it­ors to our own land,” he tells me.”

    This is also a total misunderstanding of how the relationship between tangata whenua and manuhiri operates. These aren’t permanent and inflexible statuses – if new manuhiri arrive at a marae after one group’s already been welcomed on, the original group of manuhiri *join the tangata whenua to welcome the new ones.* Following that interpretation of the concept, Pakeha *are already* tangata whenua by virtue of the relationship they’ve developed with the land and its other inhabitants.

    Unfortunately, that interpretation doesn’t support the racist urge to stomp Maori culture out of existence, so it won’t appeal to these theorists.

  2. “Max was told years ago by Michael King that it’s well known the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in NZ before Abel Tasman’s 1642 visit.”

    I don’t believe it. Michael was scathing about this stuff.

    1. Believe me, if you ever read “To the Ends of the Earth” you’ll end up screaming out “I don’t believe it!” an awful lot (and thus you will think you are the main character in “One Foot in the Grave.”).

  3. Of course the NZHPT subscribe to this stuff in secret. How could they not with such ‘respected’ scholars as Dutre et al in their midst. Funny also, as I have yet to meet a Trust archaeologist who would give this nonsense the time of day.

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