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INTRODUCTION (The records form.. . an entire and integrated whole. As such, not only must they be invaluable and of prime interest to the Governments of the region, but they also constitute by far the most important depository of historical and other information in the entire Pacific region, covering as they do the major part of the South Seas inhabited by a wide variety of Polynesians, Micronesians and Melanesians. To historians, anthropologists, political scientists, demographers and other social scientists the value of the documentation they contain is incalculable... '

Bruce T. Burne, Archivist of the Western Pacific Archive, 1976

The Western Pacific High Commission The British Empire came late to the Western Pacific islands. Before the establishment of the Western Pacific High Commission (WPHC) in 1877 British influences in the region stemmed, not from the formal apparatus of empire, but from local missionaries and traders, operating independendy of British governmental control. This suited those in Whitehall who - ironically perhaps in this age of empire - balked at the prospect of assuming further territorial responsibilities, and the increased costs to the exchequer which accompanied them. If the worst excesses of British merchantmen could be moderated by Australian courts of law, and regional stability guaranteed by the guns of the Royal Navy, there seemed every hope that the indigenous peoples of the Western Pacific would, of their own accord, develop institutions which could meet the challenges of the imperial age, embrace European Christian culture, and - not least - protect British commercial interests. But the continued growth of European penetration into the Pacific made this an unrealistic aspiration. The despoiling of Fiji by European (mainly British) merchants had demonstrated the fragility of indigenous socio-political structures when exposed to the relendess pressure of European economic expansion, and had precipitated Fiji's annexation by Great Britain in 1875. Fiji's problems epitomised the stresses which increased commercial activities in the Pacific placed across the region, activities which vexed the British government, not only because of their potential to complicate cordial relations with other Powers active in the area, but also because of genuine disquiet over the dubious activities of British' nationals. The practice of 'blackbirding' - a neo-slave trade which saw merchantmen-cum-kidnappers abduct islanders as labourers for the newlyestablished plantations - was but one such example of the unscrupulous behaviour in the pursuit of profit which the British government were detennined to stamp out. v

The Western Pacific Archive: Introduction to the Documents  

A brief introduction to the history of the Western Pacific High Commission, published by the FCO Historians to commemorate the transfer of t...

The Western Pacific Archive: Introduction to the Documents  

A brief introduction to the history of the Western Pacific High Commission, published by the FCO Historians to commemorate the transfer of t...