Skip to main content

Blackbird Labor Trade

Blackbird Labor Trade

Blackbirding was the colloquial term for the earliest forms of labor trade, initiated as illegal recruitment and effective slavery long after such practices had ended in Europe and Africa.

In the 1860s Polynesians and Micronesians were forcibly taken from such contemporary Pacific states as Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau, and French Polynesia (Tahiti) to work in Chilean and Peruvian plantations and mines. Some never arrived and few ever returned home; hence, several islands, including Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and Nukulaelae (Tuvalu), lost more than half their population in just three years.

From 1847 to 1872 a more extended labor trade took Melanesians from many islands, mainly to Queensland sugarcane plantations, but also to plantations in Fiji and Samoa and mines in New Caledonia. Most came from the Loyalty Islands (New Caledonia), the New Hebrides (especially Tanna), and the Solomon Islands. Particularly in the New Hebrides this practice led to population declines in the southern islands. Initially laborers were kidnapped or promised great wealth, until the growth of widespread opposition in various Western countries, often resulting from the protests of missionaries, who themselves followed local pressure. Retaliation was often considerable and the murder of Bishop John Patteson (1827–1871) in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) was one measure of the strength of local opposition.

Eventually the British government passed the Pacific Islanders Protection Act in 1872 and blackbirding ended. It was replaced by legal recruitment until the end of the century; most of these migrants returned home, but one outcome was a small descendant population of South Sea Islanders (Kanakas) living in Australia.

In the twentieth century there was a diversity of forms of labor migration in the Pacific islands, including the movement of Wallisians and Tahitians to New Caledonia, Indians to the cane fields of Fiji, and Filipinos to Micronesia, but none of these migrations involved the violence, deception, and mortality rates that marked nineteenth-century blackbirding. In a sense the South Sea Islanders represent the first phase of a diasporic population of Pacific islanders that has parallels with Indians within the Pacific.

see also Chinese Diaspora.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Corris, P. Passage, Port and Plantation: A History of Solomon Islands Labour Migration. Melbourne University Press, 1973.

Graves, A. Graves. Cane and Labour: The Political Economy of the Queensland Sugar Industry. Edinburgh University Press, 1993.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Blackbird Labor Trade." Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450. . Encyclopedia.com. 12 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Blackbird Labor Trade." Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 12, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/blackbird-labor-trade

"Blackbird Labor Trade." Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450. . Retrieved November 12, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/blackbird-labor-trade

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.