Report by Mr. Arthur Mahaffy on a Visit to the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, 1909


The Gilbert and Ellice Islands in the west-central Pacific Ocean were first visited by Europeans in the early 19th century and became a British protectorate in 1892. In January–March 1909, Arthur Mahaffy (1869–1919), a British colonial official, made an inspection visit to the protectorate to review economic and social conditions, and in particular to examine the system of taxation used to support the protectorate’s government. Mahaffy’s eight-page report, which was submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific in Suva, Fiji, in July 1909 and published in London in 1910, contains information about the system of land tenure in the islands, the graduated land tax in effect, the production of copra and coconuts, and social, economic, and demographic trends. Mahaffy concluded that conditions on the island were generally favorable, a finding seemingly contradicted by the decrease of the native population that he observed as “well marked on almost every island of the group,” and which he attributed to imported diseases, a falling birth rate, and various other causes. The protectorate became a British crown colony in 1916. In 1979, the colony was divided to form the independent countries of Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands) and Kiribati (formerly the Gilbert Islands).

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Darling & Son, ltd., London


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8 pages, 33 centimeters

Last updated: September 18, 2015