New Hebrides


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. New Hebrides is Number 147 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 New Hebrides (present-day Vanuatu) is a chain of 13 large and many smaller islands in the southwestern Pacific, populated mainly by people of Melanesian descent. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. It discusses how, after a long period of rivalry for influence and land between British and French missionaries, traders, and settlers, in 1907 the governments of Great Britain and France established a condominium by which the two powers jointly administered the islands. The study notes that the indigenous population of the archipelago was about 65,000 people, but that their “numbers have rapidly decreased since the coming of the white man and are still diminishing.” The decrease was chiefly due to the recruitment of inhabitants for work in Queensland (Australia), Fiji, and New Caledonia. The main products of the New Hebrides were copra, cotton, coffee, maize (corn), and cocoa, which were cultivated on plantations mainly owned by French settlers and worked by laborers drawn from the indigenous population. The Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides was dissolved in 1980 and the new independent Republic of Vanuatu was created.

Last updated: March 24, 2015