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Week 2
Dr. Ryota Nishino and Lalita Sharma.
Edited by Dr. Sakul Kundra
 Discuss the original meaning and current definition
of history
Identify the prejudices inherent in the recording of
Identify the birth of Pacific history and its focus on
the islands
Discuss how the terms South Seas and Pacific evolved
Define the geographical areas which Pacific history
Cook Islands
Marshall Islands
Solomon Islands
 Land mass: 64,000 sq km = the area (size) of Sri
 Land mass + sea area: 33 million sq km = the area of
 Population: 1.8 million
Pacific Islands Map.
 To deal with problems of the present by knowing
the past
 Rise of forceful leaders
 Racial tensions
 War
 Disease
 Poverty
 Capitalism
 Foreign rule
 Much portrayed through the eyes of storyteller, e.g.
village elder/orator, historian, movie director, etc.
 Listeners of these stories, or readers and viewers of
the past lives are influenced by their
representations and interpretations
 Choices we make are based on those representations
 Lotopia (Greek – meaning “to inquire”)
 Term lotopia first recorded by Greek scholar
‘Herodotus’ – father of modern history in 5th
century BCE.
 To explain and make sense of the past involved:
- Collecting and comparing sources
- Checking one source against others
- Acknowledging the source of information so that
the reader can check the honesty of the writer
 “Continuous methodical record of public events;
the study of past events, especially, human affairs”
(ACOD, 1990 imp.:505).
- written records
- oral traditions
- physical evidence
 The above sources are subject to the interpretation of
the person who recorded the events.
History is the historian’s reconstruction of the past from
how s/he has interpreted the sources of information.
IMPORTANT: the people who reconstruct the past have
an important role as they influence our perception of
the present and that perception influences our daily
Historians may overlook views of others and reflect
what they themselves see.
RESULT: “bias or prejudice” – derived from attitude of
historians – on how events should be recorded.
ATTITUDE and PREJUDICE affect history writing.
Attitude – is a way of thinking or an opinion which is often reflected in
Attitude determines response.
Negative attitude may be prejudice: an unfounded feeling of dislike or
distrust towards someone or something, usually based on ignorance
or fear.
Prejudice – is a negative prejudgment of an individual or members of a
racial, ethnic, religious or other group, which a person continues to
make in the face of fact that contradicts such a judgment.
A prejudiced person tends to believe that his or her own group is
‘superior’ to others in ‘intelligence, character or behaviour’.
 Individuals of high birth or high caste have most
Individuals of low birth or low caste hardly have
E.g. kaisi bokola - slave (conquered people)
Dabe e na ike qai kisi ki na tabakau – one talking too
much used to sit on the mat, but now sits outside”
Kai colo – people from the “bushland” (“backward”)
Discrimination against Dalit persons
Discrimination against foreigners
Discrimination against women, LGBT, etc.
 Before the 20th century, virtually all academic historians
were Europeans. To them, islanders were mere objects,
afterthoughts and footnotes.
 That approach marginalised islanders. It was merely a
specialization of the main stream concerned with the
merely a specialization of the main stream concerned
with the historical study of the region embracing the
oceanic islands of the Pacific.
 Oral traditions were the only island “history” that
 In the area of imperial and colonial history, islanders
were ‘subtopics’ of the larger history of Europe, Australia
or Asia, if the islanders were mentioned at all.
 1949 – some historians introduced a different approach.
 Focus: the islands and their inhabitants as subjects of
Initiative: Pacific and Southeast Asian Department of the
Australian National University
Leaders of this approach: J.W. Davidson and H.E. Maude
Slowly the island people history became a recognized
specialization within the general matrix of historical
Map of Pacific Islands.
Division of Pacific by Dumont D’Urville
 Pacific Islands have been conventionally divided into the
Polynesians in the east, the Micronesians in the north-west, and
the Melanesians in the south-west, following Dumont D'Urville's
classification made in 1830,
 Though subsequent research has shown that only the Polynesians
are a relatively homogeneous group, culturally and linguistically,
 Melanesia is merely a convenient geographical term with perhaps
little if any other significance.
 Furthermore, particularly during the last 100 years, large
numbers of immigrants? Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Indians?
have entered the area, and those who have settled there
permanently, maybe inter-marrying with the existing inhabitants,
have as much right to call themselves islanders as anyone else.
Study of Pacific Islanders
 The multiplicity of societies in Pacific Islands which, in
varying degrees of isolation from each other through
barriers of ocean, mountain or mutual distrust, have
developed a heterogeneous assemblage of social,
economic and political systems, of culture traits and
complexes, beliefs, values and attitudes, which can be
observed in detail and in time-depth owing to the
smallness of the groups and the relatively brief length of
their occupancy.
 In view of the lack of written sources, the pioneer Pacific
historians, made use of the vast wealth of Polynesian oral
tradition which they found ready to hand in their
reconstructions of early Tahitian and Hawaiian history.
Pacific Oral Sources VS Anthropological Sources
 Anthropological Studies: The functional school of anthropology
resulted in a reaction which largely rejected the historicity of tradition.
It was now held that its value was primarily as validating data, as one
historian puts it in support of the contemporary corpus of argument, in
its bearing on the contemporary social scene'; not to events in the period
about which it purports to relate, but to social conditions in the period
in which it is told.
 Oral Sources: Another historians admitted that oral data might be
more reliable when used, in the reconstruction of local history. In any
case, since 1938 there has been a gradual trend towards a renewed
acceptance of the value of oral tradition as evidence of historical fact,
subject to its being evaluated as carefully as one would a document, with
due regard to the status and reliability of the narrator, its conformity
with known culture patterns, its compatibility with other accounts of the
same events and its corroboration by other interacting traditions.
Value of Oral sources
 To what extent to which one can credit oral tradition as evidence
of historical fact must largely depend on the historical sense and
interest of the particular community concerned, which in turn is
dependent on the function of historical memorization in the local
 How far oral tradition can take one back before one becomes lost
in the fog of mythology is again dependent on local criteria, but at
the best it can only serve to illuminate the immediately precontact period for a few centuries, with the exception of
occasional probably historical but chronologically isolated facts
concerning migrations which appear to be remembered after the
detail of local history has been forgotten. As Suggs suggests: 'There
is good reason to believe that Polynesian historical traditions
concerning the origin of island settling parties may often be
Value of oral tradition.
 The view of the value of oral tradition in historical
reconstruction which has become generally accepted among
historical field workers and anthropologists interested in
diachronic studies, if not by the more intransigent armchair
theoreticians, accustomed to their own cultural milieu, who
understandably find it difficult to appreciate the quite
exceptional powers of illiterate peoples to memorize when it
serves an important purpose.
 Sometimes historians tried to use both oral tradition and
documentary sources to formulate history.
Value of Oral Sources
 The Oral sources are used to reform the traumatic events
such as wars, clan origins, migrations and natural
catastrophes, are remembered even though bereft of their
genealogical time reference.
 From published papers it is evident that despite all handicaps
excellent pioneering work is now being done in this area,
some of it in conjunction with archaeologists and linguists,
and that the value of oral accounts of events in the postcontact period as a supplement, and perhaps corrective, to
the narratives of Europeans is generally recognized.
Critic of Oral sources.
 Firstly, A frequently heard objection to the use of traditional
material is that it is subject to manipulation by descendants
seeking status, land or other desiderata.
 But naturally historians have to endeavour to recognize and allow
for suppressions, additions and other forms of duplicity in both
oral and written sources.
 Secondly, one is told that oral sources are based at best on a
genealogical time sequence and thus provide only an approximate
means of dating an event in terms of European chronology. This is
true enough, particularly where genealogical foreshortening has
occurred through the intentional or unintentional omission of one
or more generations.
Oral sources vs European Written Sources
 The subject of oral tradition is discuss in detail
because of its particular importance to the Pacific
historian, not only in extending the rather brief
historical period covered by documentation but
also in providing a balance to the European viewpoint expressed in the bulk of the written
 In the whole field of unwritten records, including
oral tradition, there lies a great opportunity for
the universities in the islands to make their own
distinctive contribution to historical science.
Written Sources
 Historians in the developed countries are so encompassed with the
vast and ever-accumulating mass of written documentation that
hardly anyone can be expected to take time off, at least in the
foreseeable future, to pay attention to other sources of, to them,
far less significance.
 But in the emergent countries, where the time span of literature is
so much less, the relative importance of unwritten as compared
with written source material is correspondingly greater.
 Therefore, All sources are pertinent and each that is extant should
be exploited. But when written documents are missing, it is only
something to be lamented, as the lack of any source material
would be; it is not a wholly insurmountable obstacle.
Problem of Pacific History writing
 One of the main problems facing the Pacific historian is the
fact that until about a century ago these sources were almost
entirely written by Europeans and are often both
ethnocentrically biased and inaccurate. It is impossible here
to give more than the most cursory examination of Pacific
 Well over half the post-contact period, the information
learnt concerning the islanders was, in the absence of any
means of verbal communication, only such as could be
observed- the material culture and the visual manifestations
of social behaviour. What each side really understood about
the other in early racial interactions.
Problems of Sources
 The coming of Europeans and establishing contacts with
islanders had given different forms of histories, as
missionaries presented the picture of islanders with different
prospective to that of Europeans, depending on relatively
brief impression or rumor information.
 Despite their imperfections, which one can usually detect
and discount in advance, such are our main source material
for the 19th century Pacific, and if used with circumspect
they are an invaluable aid in the reconstruction of island
Pacific history and sources
 Early explorers had interaction with the islanders and
beachcomber; missionary with the converts and prospective
converts; and traders with his customers.
 With the voyages of Cook and his contemporaries, however,
the trickle of Pacific literature becomes a stream, fed from
now on not only by these fortuitous sources but also by a
new and ever swelling tributary: that of scientific
investigation based on systematic empirical research. Cook
identification of islands in 1769, marked the beginning of
birth of Pacific History. Later another pioneer voyage in
Island marked emergence of disciplines of human geography
and anthropology.
Emergence of new Pacific sources
 Another source began with the practice of methodically describing not
only the physical features of the islands but also the characteristics of
their inhabitants.
 Later Professional scientific investigators, naturalists and ethnographers
actually started to live in Pacific islands, mostly between 1861-1875.
 In the end of 19th century other social scientists were starting to visit the
islands not as part of complement of naval vessel but as individuals.
 Although the natural sciences largely held the fort in Pacific studies
during the 19th century, anthropology [the science that deals with the
origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics,
and social customs and beliefs of humankind], as the principal discipline
engaged in studying the islanders, was busy collecting its basic data,
perfecting its methodology and consolidating its position as a recognized
social science.
Rise of new sources to study Pacific History
 That anthropology, as the only discipline which had freed
itself from a predominantly European orientation, should
lead the way in the study of the Pacific Islander is
understandable enough, for the island societies were
changing rapidly, particularly in Polynesia and Micronesia,
and the need for field-work was urgent.
 On the other hand the documentary sources required by the
historian were at the time still scattered all over the world,
many of them inaccessible in official archives, and others in
private hands and simply not known to exist, while the basic
anthropological studies on which any multi-cultural history
must rely for background data had in the main still to be
Course of Progress of Pacific History
 Until 1919, when Schole field produced the first general work on
modern Pacific history, there had been nothing written on the subject
except studies of oral tradition, some missionary historical apologetics,
and a few works on the local Hawaiia post-contact period. From now
on, however, colonial history began to be taught in the universities and a
few political studies covering the expansion of the European and
American powers in the South Seas began to appear.
 In 1949, J. W. Davidson doctoral thesis had set the course of Pacific
history on a new island-oriented tack and while his catholic interests
embraced every aspect of Pacific historical studies: political, cultural,
economic, religious from the ethnohistorian's work on the misty
beginnings to the political scientist's research on current developments,
the emphasis from now on was on the islander and the islands as seen
from the inside rather than as formerly on the machinations of great
power politics.
Course of Progress of Pacific History
 It was Davidson who insisted on field-work as an essential
addition to documentary research, a practice not generally
observed by historians but none the less essential for effective
cross-cultural studies and one which has converted more than
one thesis from an academic exercise into a publishable
contribution to knowledge.
 Research by scholars and historians started over the Pacific
history. Perhaps the University of Hawaii leads, with courses
on the regional cultures of Polynesia, Micronesia and
Melanesia, regional archaeology, ethnobotany, Pacific
literature, oral tradition, Pacific geography, the history of
Oceania, race relations, as well as advanced seminars and
directed research in Pacific history.
Course of Progress of Pacific History
 For cross-cultural studies involving a multi disciplinary approach cannot fail
to broaden their outlook and sharpen their critical faculties, while at the
same time inculcating an awareness of, a toleration towards, and a sympathy
for people with not only a skin colour different from their own but whose
whole way of life, outlook, values and motivations may be dissimilar.
 Journal of Pacific History, which not only provides a home for research
papers but also a record of current publications and documentary discoveries
and circulates throughout the islands as well as in 33 other countries; the
Pacific History Series, which reproduces manuscript and other scarce source
material; and the Pacific Monograph Series, which publishes bibliographies,
manuscript and thesis catalogues, periodical indexes and other working
 the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau is a unique example of international interlibrary co-operation in which the major Pacific Research Libraries subsidize
the Australian National University to maintain a clearing centre for the
location, recording, copying and depositing (in original or microfilm) of all
manuscript material relating to the Pacific Islands of significance for research
Course of Progress of Pacific History
 This brings us to the future of Pacific history, which
celebrated its 21st birthday as a recognized sub-discipline in
1970 and has therefore only just come of age. We are still at
the stage of having to work on detailed studies in depth of
particular problems, based on primary sources, or at the
most on histories of particular island groups.
 Even then it remains to be seen whether the region retains a
sufficient homogeneity for integrated treatment after its
political partition by the European powers.
 There are of course many other more technical problems
involved in regional historiography, the nature of historical
truth, the evaluation of sources, their interpretation, the
elimination of personal bias and acquired prejudices, the
avoidance of anachronistic judgements.
Reasons for the rise in Pacific studies
 Firstly, due to political dynamism sweeping over the South Seas, which tends
to strengthen community cohesiveness, regardless of the particular
constitutional solution reached in individual territories, from complete
independence to complete integration with a metropolitan power.
 Secondly, Often associated with political resurgence is a cultural and
intellectual renaissance, as the island peoples overcome their self-deprecatory
feeling of inferiority in the face of European technological pre-eminence and
recover from cultural disintegration and the cumulative pressurizing to accept
our material values as the criteria of excellence in individual life and the
society as a whole.
 There is the rapidly expanding network of inter-island and inter-group
communications, which is producing for the first time a degree of regional
cohesion, as exemplified by the South Pacific Commission, the South Pacific
Games and the many inter-territorial conferences.
 Commencing in about 1920 the main focus of Pacific studies generally moved
from Europe to the countries bordering the Pacific. There are already many
indications of this trend in the establishment of libraries, museums, archives
and societies in the island territories, where there are now no less than five
journals which cater for Pacific historical studies.
Pacific history will excel than European
history writings
 The emphasis in history is changing, and will continue to
change, as indigenous historiographers and teachers take over
from Europeans who are, as it were, acting as trustees on
their behalf.
 Pacific history will increasingly become what is sometimes
termed decolonized history, in that it will be less concerned
with the activities of Europeans, whether individuals or
groups, and more with changes in the indigenous societies.
Pacific History has great Future ahead.
 Pacific history is not only a fascinating specialization in its
own right, studying a regional laboratory of historical
variables in miniature that will enable it to make an
increasing contribution to the discipline as a whole, but that
it also has a very practical and therapeutic role to enact in
assisting the rehabilitation of the Pacific peoples at the end of
a traumatic era of European political, economic and
technological ascendency by renewing their self-respect and
providing them with a secure historical base from which to
play their part as responsible citizens of independent or selfgoverning communities in a new world.
IMPACT: enormous – affected every aspect of life:
 Religion
 Governance
 Education
 Commerce
Influence came from:
 Explorers
 Whalers
 Beachcombers
 Castaways
 Missionaries
 Colonial administrators
 Traders
 Migrant labourers
SEAS: 13 September 1513, a Spanish
explorer, Vasco Nunez de Balboa stood at the
Panama Isthmus and called it the South Seas.
 PACIFICO (peace): 28 November 1520, Portuguese
explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed into the ocean
through a passage (Magellan Strait) in South
 Purpose: how the past helps to make sense of our
 Process of recording history from the point of view
of islanders.
 People often interpret past events in terms of their
own perspectives.
 We can review what we have learnt in the past and
display our own perspectives.