British Possessions in Oceania


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. British Possessions in Oceania is Number 144 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The study deals with 14 islands or groups of islands in the South Pacific belonging to Great Britain or to Australia and New Zealand, dominions within the British Empire. Most of these islands are quite small and located south of the equator. The study includes sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions, with separate treatments of these topics for the different island groups. These islands were administered as British colonies or protectorates: the Crown Colony of Fiji (present-day Republic of Fiji); the Crown Colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (later separate entities, the Gilbert Islands as the present-day Republic of Kiribati and the Ellice Islands as Tuvalu); the Protectorate of the British Solomon Islands (present-day Solomon Islands); the Protectorate of Tonga or the Friendly Islands (present-day Kingdom of Tonga); and various outlying small island dependencies (some of which were administered by and today remain under the sovereignty of Australia or New Zealand). The populations of these islands ranged in size from a few hundred to a few thousand, and included people of Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian, Papuan, European, and other stock. The study concludes with general remarks, but cautions that the “various groups comprising British Oceania differ so widely that it is difficult to make any statements applicable to them all.”

Last updated: July 23, 2015