When ‘early’ modern colonialism comes late: Historical archaeology in Vanuatu

Author(s): James Flexner; Matthew Spriggs

Year: 2014


Early Modern world history is often framed in terms of a span of years, typically 1400-1800 CE. During this time, major transformations occurred in world environments, economies, religions, and societies. Yet from a regional perspective, these broad trends are often countered by evidence for local dynamics that are divergent from the grander sweep of history. This was certainly true in Remote Oceania, where colonial encounters were mostly few and far between prior to the later part of the 18th century. Archaeological materials can provide a counterpoint to just-so stories that grow out of histories penned in overly broad strokes. The Melanesian archipelago of Vanuatu provides a valuable case in point. Local perspectives emphasize the centrality of Melanesian islanders in local as well as regional colonial history, especially in the adoption and adaptation of Christianity. The part of Vanuatu’s history that might be referred to as early modernity also doesn’t fit the usual dates for this period, as it wasn’t until the early 20th century that a formal, more ‘modern’ colonial regime was established in the New Hebrides (as Vanuatu was called before independence in 1980).

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When ‘early’ modern colonialism comes late: Historical archaeology in Vanuatu. James Flexner, Matthew Spriggs. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436577)

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Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-4,07