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About this book

This wide-ranging study of the Pacific Islands provides a dynamic and provocative account of the peopling of the Pacific, and its broad impact on world history. Spanning over 50,000 years of human presence in an area which comprises one-third of our planet – Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia – the narrative follows the development of the region, from New Guinea's earliest settlement to the creation of the modern Pacific states.

Thoroughly revised and updated in light of the most recent scholarship, the second edition includes:
• an overview of the events and developments in the Pacific Islands over the last decade
• coverage of the latest archaeological discoveries
• several new maps
• an updated and expanded bibliography

Steven Roger Fischer's unique text provides a highly accessible and invaluable introduction to the history of an area which is currently emerging as pivotal in international affairs.

Table of Contents

1. The First Islanders

Abstract
Sea levels were as much as 120 metres lower than today’s during the last Ice Age — the Pleistocene epoch — which lasted from 1.8 million to 12,000 years ago. Southeast Asia then included the maritime subcontinent of Sunda, that ancient and immense ‘Boot of Asia’ which separated the South China Sea from the Indian Ocean (Map 1). East and southeast of the Sunda subcontinent lay enormous Sahul: ancient Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, which were then still connected as one massive continent.
Steven Roger Fischer

2. Melanesians, Micronesians, Polynesians

Abstract
The prehistory of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia is largely unknown. Pacific Islanders in precontact times — that is, before the European trespass — possessed no written history. Oral traditions mixed legend, myth and tribal agenda to create a ‘group promotion’ which is the antithesis of the modern West’s linear, cause-and-effect historiography. Still, travellers’ accounts, ships’ logs and other reports from earlier centuries have revealed much about traditional Pacific Islands societies, and various fledgling fields of research at the same time have provided a better understanding of such societies as first encountered by outsiders. These, together with such modern disciplines and techniques as archaeology, historical linguistics, palynology, physical anthropology, DNA analyses, computer navigating and the like, have enabled a partial ‘reconstruction’ of Pacific Islands’ human history. Though this reconstruction will never substitute for the accuracy of written history as is evident from the history records of Europe, Egypt, the Middle East and Asia, a new understanding has nevertheless in these ways been achieved.
Steven Roger Fischer

3. The European Trespass

Abstract
A little over 500 years ago Europeans were still aware of only three landmasses on Earth: Europe, Africa and Asia. But since the world had to be round, or so Greek and Roman geographers had already reasoned in antiquity, the northern lands had to be balanced by an equal portion of southern lands. In the second century AD, the Alexandrian mathematician and geographer Ptolemy even depicted on his maps such a Terra Australis Incognita (‘unknown southern land’) covering the globe some 10° south of the equator. Arab, Indian and Chinese geographers were similarly convinced that the round Earth held vast lands in the south. But no one sought these southern lands, because of era, dogma, economy, climate and — most particularly — lack of appropriate maritime technology.
Steven Roger Fischer

4. The Second Colonization

Abstract
For the first time in more than 3000 years, a different people had begun to colonize Pacific Islands. The governments of Europe and the United States had still not woven primary plans for the region, and so well into the nineteenth century the Pacific remained the arena of solitary traders, shipmasters and missionaries. But as shipping increased, more foreign settlers arrived, too, and with more settlers came even more traders, more missionaries and then larger commercial ventures, many from established concerns in Australia, the United States and South America (Peru and Chile).
Steven Roger Fischer

5. New Pacific Identities

Abstract
Already by the First World War colonial patterns had been forged, for a variety of reasons, which would determine the nature of Pacific Islands’ development for the next half century. Indigenous Pacific Islanders had had little part in this process. Indeed, theirs was a story of accelerating marginalization. The foreign trespassers, who first became settlers then the new lords of the Pacific, had usurped the right to create, for themselves and their own kind, the type of societies with which they wished to replace those traditional Pacific ones that had no value to them. Much was lost with this conveyance. But much was also gained.
Steven Roger Fischer

6. Pacific Islanders in Transit

Abstract
Having signed the Axis Pact with Germany and Italy on 27 September 1940, Japan demanded from defeated France the bases in French Indo-China that it required in order to win its three-year-old war against China. First securing its northern defences through a treaty of neutrality with the Soviet Union on 13 April 1941, Japan then occupied French Indo-China on 28 July and, from there, Thailand, with the consent of Thailand’s dictator Pibul Songgram. With this, Japan was also hoping to create a base of operations against the British possessions in Malaya and Burma, which were tagged to become Japanese. On the same day that Japan militarily occupied Thailand — 7 December 1941 — Japan attacked the US Pacific Fleet at its home base of Pearl Harbor, Hawai‘i, disabling the Americans and allowing Japan to advance swiftly into Southeast Asia and the Pacific (see Map 10).
Steven Roger Fischer

7. Reinventing Pacific Islands

Abstract
The Pacific was ‘reinvented’ after 1945 as colonial powers acted primarily for themselves and only secondarily for Islanders. The historically most challenging symbol of this posture: the two atomic bombs that exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that year, which may have ended the Second World War but which also began an arms race that turned the region into a nuclear arena. Though the Russians tested their nuclear weapons within the Soviet Union (but not in Russia itself), the United States, Britain and France tested in the Pacific because of sparse and ethnically different populations. Over exactly half a century — between 1946 and 1996 — more than 250 uranium and/or hydrogen explosives were detonated at Bikini, Enewetak, Johnston Atoll, Christmas Island, Malden, Moruroa and Fangataufa (see Map 11). Once the signing of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union compelled the United States and Britain to conclude their testing in the Pacific in 1963 (the last test had taken place there in 1962), three years later France commenced its testing of nuclear weapons in the Tuamotus and, ignoring wave after wave of international protest, continued detonations there until 1996.
Steven Roger Fischer

8. The ‘New Pacific’

Abstract
The brown, indigenous, uni-insular Pacific Islander is an anachronism. Demographic heterogeneity now characterizes much of Pacific Islands, with multiple ethnicities defying traditional categorizations. Far more Europeans and/or Asians than Polynesians reside in New Zealand and Hawai‘i, for example, many of these boasting Islander ancestors. There are more Chamorros, Niueans and Tokelauans living abroad than on their ancestral isles, many of them with children of mixed heritage. The islands are currently uniting all indigenous (and acculturated) Islanders in a way not seen in the Pacific since the great voyaging spheres of the Middle Ages. Indeed, the phenomenon is so widespread that it has been labelled ‘contemporary voyaging’.
Steven Roger Fischer
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