VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > I. The Pacific Region, 1914–1945
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1906)
I. The Pacific Region, 1914–1945
1. The Pacific Islands
Until 1939 this was a fairly quiet period in the islands, though in some of the major islands, there were protests over aspects of colonial rule. In 1914, Apolosi Nawaii formed the Viti Company to circumvent the European intermediaries and trading companies. In the 1920s, the nationalist Mau movement in Western Samoa reacted against New Zealand paternalism and advocated independence for the island; in 1929, the murder of District Officer William Bell on Malaita in the Solomons led to official campaigns of pacification. In the 1920s and 1930s, a series of laws was passed in Papua designed to “preserve white standards”; industrial and political protests by Indo-Fijians were carried out against the European-dominated colonial order in the 1920s.  1
In the early months of World War I, British ships with Australian and New Zealand forces conquered the German island colonies south of the equator, while in Oct. 1914 the Japanese took possession of those north of the equator (Marianas, Carolines, and Marshalls). Australia captured German New Guinea. At the war's end, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand favored outright annexation of these territories, but because of American objections, these were finally classified as class C mandates to be governed as an integral part of the administering power.  2
The influenza epidemic wrought havoc in several islands, killing 21 percent of the Samoan population and 6 percent of the indigenous Fijian population. Discontent at New Zealand's handling of the epidemic in Samoa increased resentment against colonial rule and helped the Mau movement.  3
1919, May 7
The Supreme Council of the Allied Powers assigned German New Guinea and the neighboring German islands (Bismarck Archipelago) to Australia; German Samoa (Western Samoa) became a New Zealand possession. The rich phosphate island of Nauru was given to the British Empire, and by agreement the administration was divided among Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Japan received the German islands north of the equator as a mandate. These arrangements were confirmed by the League of Nations on Dec. 17, 1920.  4
1922, Feb. 6
The naval treaty (See 1921, Nov. 12–1922, Feb. 6) among the five great powers included an agreement to maintain the status quo with regard to fortifications and naval bases in the Pacific (the American and Alaskan coasts excluded).  5
The Japanese government established civil administration in the mandated islands (over 1,400 of them, with a total area of only 836 square miles, scattered over an immense area of water). The capital was set up at Korror Island (Palau group) with six branches in the major island groups. Indigenous people were involved in subsidiary government positions. The Japanese approached their task of colonial administration seriously and attempted a large-scale program of social and economic development. Economically, the development of the sugar industry, under the leadership of Matsue Haruji, in the Marianas was the most important. This development brought a considerable influx of Japanese immigrants. By 1935 there were 50,000 Japanese in Micronesia, 40,000 in the Marianas.  6
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.