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William Williams


The missionary and linguist, Bishop William Williams (1800–1878), photographed late in his life.

William Williams arrived in the Bay of Islands as a missionary in 1826 and moved to the east coast of the North Island in 1839. Twenty years later he was installed as bishop of the predominantly Māori diocese of Waiapu.

While he criticised the Waitara purchase which sparked the first Taranaki War, Williams conceded the wisdom of the government subjugating ‘rebel’ Māori. However by the time of the fighting with Te Kooti in his own diocese and Tītokowaru on the west coast his views had changed. ‘All this war down to the present time [1868] has sprung out of Waitara…. As a community and as a government we have been puffed up, first with an idea that we were in the right, & secondly that we were able to put down the natives by our own strength…. We are now brought very low.’ Williams had also come to believe that confiscating land from Māori was unjust.

See also: biography of William Williams (DNZB)


Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: 1/2-061688-F
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

How to cite this page

William Williams, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated