New Caledonia History

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History[edit | edit source]

The islands were probably settled by migrants from Papua New Guinea and Polynesia. James Cook visited the islands in 1774 and a few other Europeans followed. Missionaries began arriving in 1840. France took over in 1853 and ruled through military governors. The French used it as a penal colony, transporting 40,000 convicts there from 1864-1897. New Caledonia remains part of France with the status of an overseas territory. It is divided in three provinces: the Loyalty Islands, the North Province, and the Southern Province.

Waterfall at Tao, New Caledonia

New Caledonia lies 930 miles off the northeast coast of Australia. The mountainous main island “Grand Terre” is the largest in the Pacific next to New Zealand. It also includes these scattered islands: *Loyalty Islands (pop. 22,000)

  • Isle des Pines (pop. 1,800)
  • Belep Archipelago (pop. 1,000)
  • Loyalty Group
  • Chesterfield Group
  • Hunter
  • Huon Group
  • Matthew
  • Walpole.

The estimated population in 1997 was 191,000. The official language is French. Melanesian (a pidgin English) and 20 native languages as well as English are spoken.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

B.C. Kanak people arrive from Melanesia.
1775 British Captain Cook arrives and names it after the Scottish highlands. He estimates 70,000 Kanaks living there.
1825 Protestant London Missionary Society arrive.
1827 Dumont d’Urville explores the archipelago
1840 d’Urville maps the territory.
1843 French Catholic missionaries arrive.
Tensions between French and British end with the French winning.
1853 By order of Napoleon III, Admiral Febvrier Despoite takes official possession for France.
1864 A French penal colony is stablished.
The Nickel mining industry begins.
1875 The copper mining industry begins.
1878 A Kanak revolt is put down by French colonizers.
1897 Penal colonists (20,000 of them) choose to remain and settle the islands.
1900 Kanaks are removed to reservations. Disease result in the reduction of the Kanak population to 27,000.
1951 France grants the Kanaks and French settlers the right to vote and allows Kanaks to move out of the reservations.
1957 New Caledonia becomes an overseas territory of France.