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Fiji Old History

 

The Fiji Islands have been inhabited for more than 3,000 years. In the 19th century, the islands began to be colonized by Britain, which recruited thousands of Indians as plantation workers. The move of Indians in modern times has created contradictions that still affect the country's politics.

Traces of people in Fiji have been dated to 1,300 years before Christ. Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the Fijians developed a rich Stone Age culture. They grew jams, taro and sweet potatoes, fished and raised pigs, chickens and dogs.

The villages were protected by fortifications. The little chiefdom sometimes fought with each other or made raids to other archipelagos. There should also have been peaceful relations with Tonga and Samoa, where Fijian princes and princesses are mentioned in old folk tales.

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Dutchman Abel Tasman targeted some of the Fiji Islands in 1643. The Englishmen James Cook and William Bligh came in the 18th century. In the early 1800s, Fiji's forests were ravaged by merchants in search of sandalwood. Fiji became known as the Cannibal Islands, and the islanders would certainly not mind if the name deterred some intruders. One adventurer who accelerated the Fijian civil wars by introducing firearms was Charlie Savage, formerly Kalle Svensson from Uddevalla.

Missionaries also came to Fiji. In 1854 the powerful chief Cakobau was baptized. He came from the small island of Bau, where "the terrible Swede" Svensson had taught the islanders how to use bullets and gunpowder. In alliance with the King of Tonga, Cakobau subjugated almost all of western Fiji, but he got into trouble after accusations of having burnt down the US consul's home.

Old History of Fiji

Faced with the threat of an American invasion and annexation, Cakobau sought support from Britain. British settlers had arrived in the 1860s to build cotton and sugar plantations, and in 1874 Fiji became a British crown colony.

Cakobau and twelve other chieftains led the British to agree that no more land would be transferred from the indigenous people to the settlers. The Fijians had to maintain their internal rule, and Europeans were forbidden to use them as labor. Instead, the British recruited contract workers from India. The contract worker system went on between 1879 and 1916. When it was abolished, a majority of Indians chose to stay. At the same time, the Fijians had become fewer as a result of war and European diseases.

The British's intention was to protect the indigenous people, which was achieved to some extent, but the policy also laid the foundation for today's contradictions, mainly around the Fijians' exclusive right to own land. The Fijians were in many ways favored by the British at the expense of the Indians but were also excluded from taking part in modern economic life.

 
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