First Explorers (1642-1839)

Explorers and other visitors
The first Europeans known to reach New Zealand were the crew of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. Tasman arrived in his ships in December 1642, which resulted in a clash with local Māori. Tasman called the two main islands Staten Landt, after the States-General of the Netherlands. Dutch cartographers changed the name to Nova Zeelandia in Latin, from Nieuw Zeeland, after the Dutch province of Zeeland. It was subsequently Anglicized as New Zealand by British naval captain James Cook, 100 years later. Various claims have been made that New Zealand was reached by other non-Polynesian voyagers before Tasman, but these are not widely accepted.

From the 1790s, the waters around New Zealand were visited by British, French and American whaling, which is the hunting of whales. Their crews traded European goods, including guns and metal tools, for Māori food, water, wood, flax and sex. Māori were reputed to be enthusiastic and canny traders. There were some conflicts, such as the destruction of the Boyd, which took place in 1809, when local Māori killed 66 people at a harbour, in revenge for the crew's whipping a Māori chief's son. The massacre is among the most famous instances of cannibalism and one of the bloodiest mass killings in New Zealand's history. Despite these events, most contact between Māori and European was peaceful. From the 1800s missionaries began settling in New Zealand and attempting to convert Māori to Christianity and control the considerably lawless European visitors.

Māori response
The impact of contact on Māori varied. In some areas life went on more or less unchanged. At the other end of the scale, tribes that frequently encountered Europeans underwent major changes.

Pre-European Māori had no distance weapons except for spears. The introduction of the musket (firearm) had an enormous impact on Māori warfare. Tribes with muskets would attack tribes without them, killing or enslaving many. As a result, guns became very valuable and Māori would trade huge quantities of goods for a single musket. The Musket Wars died out in the 1830s after most tribes had acquired muskets and a new balance of power was achieved.

Around this time, many Māori converted to Christianity. The reasons for this have been hotly debated, and may include social and cultural disruption caused by the Musket Wars and European contact. Other factors may have been the appeal of a religion that promotes peace and forgiveness, a desire to emulate the Europeans and to gain a similar abundance of material goods, and the Māori's polytheistic culture that easily accepted the new god.

European settlement
European settlement increased through the early decades of the nineteenth century. The first full-blooded European infant in the territory, Thomas King, was born in 1815. Many Europeans bought land from Māori, but misunderstanding and different concepts of land ownership led to conflicts. In 1839, the New Zealand Company, which aimed of promoting the “systematic” colonization of New Zealand, announced plans to buy large tracts of land and establish colonies in New Zealand. This alarmed the missionaries, who called for British control of European settlers in New Zealand.