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New Caledonia of Kanaky: The political history of a French colony

CollectionsANU Pacific Institute
Title: New Caledonia of Kanaky: The political history of a French colony
Author(s): Connell, John
Hughes, Helen
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Development Studies Centre, Research School of Pacfic Studies, The Australian National University.
Series/Report no.: The Australian National University, Pacific Research Monograph: No. 16
Since its discovery by Cook more than two hundred years ago, New Caledonia's history has been influenced by colonialism , potential economic affluence, civil unrest and violence. Early mission rivalries between the English and French were resolved by French annexation in 1853. The following ninety years saw the emergence of New Caledonia as a settler colony . A profitable mining industry developed and the economy became dominated by local and French multinational business interests, with the extensive repatriation of earnings and profits. The Melanesian population declined under a regime that saw Kanaks as no more than a racially inferior labour force. Legislation restricted Melanesians geographically and withdrew or withheld civil liberties and Asians were introduced as a more 'reliable' workforce. By the 1920s the decline in the Melanesian population ended and, following the Second World War, the harsh social and economic restrictions on Melanesians were abolished. Nevertheless, New Caledonia increasingly became a dichotomized society. The territory today is sharply divided politically, culturally and economically between the Kanaks ( Melanesians ), the European (mostly French), the Polynesian and Asian populations. Affluent Europeans dominate Noumea while poor Melanesians dominate rural areas. Population growth emphasized the necessity for more land for Melanesians but demands for land reform were met only belatedly. The inevitable involvement of Melanesians in politics, initially in support of Europeans, led to an extraordinary succession of both left and right wing parties that were formed to contest Territorial and French elections. During the nickel boom of the early 1970s there was extensive migration of Europeans to New Caledonia, ensuring that Melanesians remained a minority. The first Melanesian political parties followed, primarily to secure land reform, but, in the face of conservative opposition, these became more radical and eventually sought independence . Conservative political parties took more extreme positions in response and there was no progress towards independence. Militancy amongst the Melanesians has resulted. New Caledonia remains a colony and a fragmented society in an ocean of considerable strategic importance to France. Despite the strength of nationalist claims independence remains unlikely
ISBN: 0731505123
ISSN: 0155-9060


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