From the Indian Ocean to the Pacific: Affranchis and Petits-Blancs in New Caledonia

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Karin Elizabeth Speedy


The sugar crisis of 1860 in Reunion motivated the migration of thousands of Réunionnais to New Caledonia. Along with sugar planters, wealthy enough to transport their production equipment as well as their indentured workers, significant groups of both skilled and unskilled labourers made their way from Reunion to the Pacific colony in the second half of the nineteenth century. In previous publications, I have focused my attention on the sugar industry and the immigration of the rich planters and their coolies. While I have drawn attention to the heterogeneity of the sugar workers and have signalled the arrival and numeric importance of tradespeople, manual and low skilled workers from Reunion, I have not yet described these immigrants in detail. This is because this group has been largely ignored by history and details surrounding their circumstances are scant. In this paper, I discuss the background and origins of these people and highlight some of the fascinating stories to emerge from this migration to New Caledonia and beyond.

Article Details

Indian Ocean Traffic Special Issue January 2012 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Karin Elizabeth Speedy, Macquarie University, Sydney

Karin Speedy is Head of French and Francophone Studies in the Department of International Studies at Macquarie Universiity.