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Securing Village Life

Securing Village Life: Development in Late Colonial Papua New Guinea

Scott MacWilliam
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Securing Village Life
    Book Description:

    Securing Village Life: Development in Late Colonial Papua New Guinea examines the significance for post-World War II Australian colonial policy of the modern idea of development. Australian officials emphasised the importance of bringing development for both the colony of Papua and the United Nations Trust Territory of New Guinea. The principal form that development took involved securing smallholders against the tendencies of other forms of capitalist development that might have separated households from land. In order to make household occupation of their holdings more secure and at higher standards of living, the colonial administration coordinated and supervised increases in production of crops and other agricultural produce. Contrary to suggestions that colonial policy and practice ignored indigenous agriculture and concentrated on plantation crops grown by international firms and expatriate owner-occupiers, the study shows how the main focus was instead upon increasing smallholder output for immediate consumption as well as for local and international markets. Simultaneously development stimulated increases in consumption, including of goods produced through manufacturing processes and imported into the colony. Only as Independence approached was the pre-eminence of the earlier focus upon smallholders weakened. In part the change occurred due to the political advance of the indigenous capitalist class and their allies seeking to extend their base in largeholding agriculture and related commercial activities. This advance and the uncertainty over which form of development would prevail once indigenes held state power in post-colonial Papua New Guinea stood in marked contrast to the definite direction pursued under the colonial administration of the 1950s and early 1960s.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-85-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    There is now almost universal agreement ‘that colonialism was bad’.¹ Even if there has been a degree of revisionism in recent years, as documented by William Easterly in favour of neo-trusteeship and ‘postmodern imperialism’, it is still common to find condemnation of colonial rule. Accounts abound of brutality by colonial officials against indigenous populations. There are numerous assessments which purport to have found a lack of growth, improvement in living standards and generalised political repression. Where colonial rule continued after World War II, the consequences are included in what another economist asserts is ‘the failure of post-war development policy’.² While...

  7. 1. The International Idea of Development Reformed
    (pp. 17-40)

    The idea of development which became so important for late colonial PNG has a lineage extending back at least to early nineteenth century Europe. The first part of this chapter outlines the most important elements of the idea of development and its evolution before becoming influential for PNG.

    From the late nineteenth century the idea of development had begun to affect policy in Australia, Papua and New Guinea. The second section of the chapter shows how, from the late nineteenth century until the outbreak of World War II, Australian colonial policy was informed by an idea which emphasised the importance...

  8. 2. Postwar Development’s Uncertainties
    (pp. 41-76)

    Once the war ended in 1945, and over the next two years as the administration of Papua and New Guinea passed from military to civilian hands, defining and applying ‘positive Australianism’ was especially difficult. It was one thing for colonial officials to propose that the ‘paramountcy of native interests’ should occur on the basis of development policy aiming to bring about a major expansion of household production. It was quite another matter to work out what the policy meant and how it could be achieved. The overarching theme of this chapter is that the difficulties faced during the late 1940s...

  9. 3. Uniform Development Framed, Implemented and Challenged
    (pp. 77-118)

    During the 1950s uncertainty was replaced by a well-defined strategy to make development happen. The most important consequence of colonial development policy over the decade was a substantial expansion of smallholder agriculture and commercialised consumption by households. The change from the uncertainty of the immediate postwar years occurred through an enlarged, better resourced administration following a policy direction which came to be known as uniform or even development.

    Uniform development built upon the policy priorities established during and immediately after World War II, discussed in the previous chapters. While the language of development policy changed, to the extent that the...

  10. 4. Uniform Development in Practice
    (pp. 119-156)

    The previous chapter concentrated upon the principal features of uniform development policy during the 1950s, and in particular what was intended to happen. Here emphasis is placed upon what occurred, as the intersection of spontaneous and intentional development. Several of the most substantial outcomes are shown through brief accounts of three particular crops, grown for international markets as well as immediate household consumption and local sale. However, as pointed out in the Introduction, this is not intended to be a comprehensive account of development in practice during the 1950s. Partly, this is because of the difficulty in showing the extent...

  11. 5. Accelerated Development
    (pp. 157-210)

    By the late 1950s it had become clear that the gradualism of uniform development could not satisfy international or internal PNG demands for rapid economic growth and major political reforms. However Minister Hasluck’s 1958 acknowledgement, noted in Chapter Three, that the colonial administration had an increased role to perform in bringing development did not indicate anything but a desire to maintain the current priorities at an intensified level of application. It was uncertain just how the policy direction which gave primacy to smallholder agriculture as the basis for improved living standards could be further changed, while the colony moved toward...

  12. 6. Uncertain Development and Independence
    (pp. 211-240)

    Once it was settled in the mid to late 1960s that self-government and then Independence would occur within a decade, uncertainty reigned in PNG. The condition extended from electoral politics to the composition of the first indigenous government formed at the 1972 elections and to the structure of the new nation-state as outlined in the yet-to-be finalised constitution. While these and related matters, including the extent of the Australian commitment to provide financial and other support captured most attention, a more important struggle was taking place among indigenes. Screened by the emotional power of nationalism, primarily now indigenous but continuing...

  13. 7. Conclusion
    (pp. 241-248)

    Papua New Guinea remains a country in which more than 80 per cent of the population live in the countryside on smallholdings. However with a rapidly increasing population of more than seven million, it is not a place where the bulk of the population exists at rising standards of welfare. A recent Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) report claims that:

    The Pacific as a whole is significantly off track to meet the MDGs [Millenium Development Goals] by 2015 …. Of greatest concern are [PNG] and Timor-Leste, two significant countries which are both off track on almost all MDGs.¹


  14. Appendix on Data
    (pp. 249-252)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-296)
  16. Index
    (pp. 297-306)