V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > F. The Pacific Region, c. 800–1914
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1792–93)
F. The Pacific Region, c. 800–1914
1. The Pacific Islands, 1794–1914
By the end of the 18th century, the era of European discovery was effectively over, though some significant expeditions, such as the one led by American Charles Wilkes (1838–41), made some further contributions. The 19th century saw the beginning of trade and large trading companies in the islands, the advent of Christian missions, and, most important, the annexation of the islands by European powers. By 1900, all the Pacific islands had come under some form of European control, the sole exception being Tonga, which managed to retain its sovereignty under British supervision. New tools and ideas introduced by European traders brought about profound social and economic change in the island communities and helped destabilize traditional political structures. Large-scale indentured labor migration in the islands was an important legacy of colonial rule. Among the more tragic consequences of increasing contact with the outside world were the introduction of new diseases, depopulation, and large-scale land alienation. As the 19th century ended, the islands had become deeply enmeshed in European political and economic concerns.  1
1794, Feb. 25
Kamehameha and other chiefs place island of Hawaii under protection of British Crown.  2
1797, March 6
The London Missionary Society, a nondenominational body comprising Congregationalists, Calvinistic Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians, reached Tahiti on the ship Duff. It established a major station there and subsequently sent missionaries to Tonga and the Marquesas Islands. Rev. John Williams, who arrived in Tahiti in 1817, spearheaded the society's drive in the Pacific.  3
Pork trade began between Tahiti and the British convict colony of New South Wales, with the active backing of the latter's Governor King. It encouraged colonial entrepreneurs to pursue commercial opportunities in the South Seas and enabled the Pomares of Tahiti to use their new connection to enhance their power.  4
The discovery of sandalwood in Fiji precipitated a rush in 1807 that was over by 1810. A similar short-lived rush in Hawaii began in 1811. A longer-lasting and more significant trade began in Melanesia after the discovery of sandalwood at Eromanga (New Hebrides) in 1829. The trade introduced new tools, which altered the fabric of island society and economy.  5
Kamehameha I (the Great) achieved the unification of the Hawaiian Islands. Similar efforts on the part of the Pomares of Tahiti and Cakobau of Fiji met with less success.  6
The Church Missionary Society established a station in New Zealand and subsequently in the Pacific islands.  7
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent its first missionaries abroad, to Hawaii. Also, the Wesleyan Missionary Society sent its representatives to New Zealand and Tonga.  8
The Dutch annexed western New Guinea.  9
The British claimed sovereignty over New Zealand with the Treaty of Waitangi.  10
The French, led by Dupetit-Thouars, annexed the Marquesas and declared Tahiti and the Society Islands a French protectorate. In 1844, they took Gambier Islands in the Tuamotus, claiming a protectorate over the entire group, which was formally annexed in 1881.  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.