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The most important units of pre-European Māori society were the whānau or extended family, and the hapū or group of whānau.After these came the iwi or tribe, consisting of groups of hapū.In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and various Māori chiefs, bringing New Zealand into the British Empire and giving Māori the same rights as British subjects.There was extensive British settlement throughout the rest of the century and into the early part of the next century.Meanwhile, Māori culture underwent a renaissance, and from the 1950s Māori began moving to the cities in large numbers.This led to the development of a Māori protest movement which in turn led to greater recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in the late 20th century.
Previous dating of some Kiore (Polynesian rat) bones at 50 – 150 CE has now been shown to have been unreliable; new samples of bone (and now also of unequivocally rat-gnawed woody seed cases) match the 1280 CE date of the earliest archaeological sites and the beginning of sustained, anthropogenic deforestation.
The country remained an enthusiastic member of the British Empire, and 110,000 men fought in World War I (see New Zealand Expeditionary Force).
After the war New Zealand signed the Treaty of Versailles (1919), joined the League of Nations, and pursued an independent foreign policy, while its defence was still controlled by Britain.
Warfare also increased in importance, reflecting increased competition for land and other resources.
In this period, fortified pā became more common, although there is debate about the actual frequency of warfare.