The story of the people from the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and the Solomon Islands who left their homes to work in the French colony of New Caledonia has long remained a missing piece of Pacific Islands history. Now Dorothy Shineberg has brought these laboreres to life by painstakingly assembling fragments from a wide variety of scattered records and documents. She tells the story of their recruitment, then sketches the workers’ lives in New Caledonia, describing the contractual arrangements, the kinds of work they did, their living conditions, how they spent their free time, the large numbers who sickened and died, and the choice at the end of the contract to remain in the colony as free workers or to return home. Throughout the book she throws light on the controversy about the recruiting of the Islanders: were they kidnapped? Or did they choose to leave home? If so, what motivated them? Evidently the Islanders’ cheap labor contributed to the development of the French colony, but how did the episode affect them and their homeland? The People Trade offers readers a revealing new picture of a long neglected side of the Pacific Islands labor trade.
Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology
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