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This glorious company: the Polynesia Company in Melbourne and Fiji

posted on 23.06.2017, 01:32 by A.M. Quanchi
This thesis seeks to reconstruct the activities of the Polynesia Company Limited - a company registered in the Colony of Victoria in December 1868 - whose promoters and shareholders were involved in a brief but notorious attempt to reap quick profits by expanding Victorian commercial enterprise from the streets of Melbourne to the cotton fields of Fiji.

The formation of companies to develop mineral resources, plantations and trading networks, or ultimately to colonize, is a major theme of the European penetration of the Pacific, and the Polynesia Company has accordingly been indexed in nearly every written account of Fiji. However, passing references, distorted by historical inaccuracy and lacking any serious effort to describe or analyse the Company in its own terms, have meant that it has been known for its involvement in the payment of the Vunivalu Cakobau's American debt and the alienation of some 200,000 acres of Fijian land, rather than for its contribution to the economic and political development of both Fiji and Victoria. Furthermore, the story of the Company illustrates graphically the economic climate of Victoria in the 1860's and even more the adventuresome spirit and the vigorous search for material prosperity which existed in the expanding society spawned by the gold rushes.

In spite of the image created by the Victorian press, the tendency to embellish the story with grander designs of imperialism and colonization must be resisted, for the Polynesia Company was never intended to be anything more than a profit making enterprise. While the prospectus and advance publicity may have excited susceptible colonial minds, the idea of adding a further jewel to the British Crown was nothing more than a device to attract investors and as a matter of course, settlers to develop the land in Fiji. [...]


Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Master of Arts

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts

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