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

Karin Speedy

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPortal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s). Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Migration
  • New Caledonian history
  • Reunion Island history
  • African Diaspora
  • Pacific history
  • Colonial history


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