New Caledonia

New Caledonia

Flag of France
Kanak Flag of New Caledonia
Motto: "Terre de parole, terre de partage"[1]
"Land of speech, land of sharing"
Location of New Caledonia
StatusSui generis special collectivity governed under the Nouméa Accord
and largest city
22°16′S 166°28′E / 22°16′S 166°28′E / -22.267; 166.467
Official languagesFrench
Recognised regional languages and 35 other native languages
Demonym(s)New Caledonian
Sovereign state France
GovernmentDependent territory
Emmanuel Macron
Édouard Philippe
Thierry Santa
Thierry Lataste
LegislatureTerritorial Congress
• Annexed by France
• Total
18,576 km2 (7,172 sq mi)
• Land
18,275 km2 (7,056 sq mi)
• 2017 estimate
Increase 278,500 (182nd)
• Density
14.5/km2 (37.6/sq mi) (200th)
GDP (nominal)2011 estimate
• Total
US$9.89 billion[2]
• Per capita
CurrencyCFP franc (XPF)
Time zoneUTC+11
Driving sideright
Calling code+687
ISO 3166 codeNC

New Caledonia (ə/; French: Nouvelle-Calédonie)[nb 1] is a special collectivity of France, currently governed under the Nouméa Accord, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, to the south of Vanuatu, about 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia and 20,000 km (12,000 mi) from Metropolitan France.[3] The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets.[4] The Chesterfield Islands are in the Coral Sea. French people, and especially locals, refer to Grande Terre as Le Caillou ("the pebble").[5]

New Caledonia has a land area of 18,576 km2 (7,172 sq mi) divided into three provinces. The North and South Provinces are located on the New Caledonian mainland, while the Loyalty Islands Province is a series of islands off the mainland. Its population of 268,767 (August 2014 census)[6] consists of a mix of the original inhabitants, Kanak people, who are the majority in the North Province and the Loyalty Islands Province and people of European descent (Caldoches and Metropolitan French), Polynesian people (mostly Wallisians), and Southeast Asian people, as well as a few people of Pied-Noir and North African descent who are the majority in the South Province. The capital of the territory is Nouméa.[3]


The earliest traces of human presence in New Caledonia date back to the Lapita period c. 1600 BC to c. 500 AD.[7] The Lapita were highly skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific.[8]

Two Kanak warriors posing with penis gourds and spears, around 1880

British explorer Captain James Cook was the first European to sight New Caledonia, on 4 September 1774, during his second voyage.[9] He named it "New Caledonia", as the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland.[9] The west coast of Grande Terre was approached by the Comte de Lapérouse in 1788, shortly before his disappearance, and the Loyalty Islands were first visited between 1793 and 1796 when Mare, Lifou, Tiga, and Ouvea were mapped by William Raven.[10] The English whaler encountered the island named then Britania, and today known as Maré (Loyalty Is.), in November 1793.[11] From 1796 until 1840, only a few sporadic contacts with the archipelago were recorded. About fifty American whalers (identified by Robert Langsom from their log books) have been recorded in the region (Grande Terre, Loyalty Is., Walpole and Hunter) between 1793 and 1887.[11] Contacts became more frequent after 1840, because of the interest in sandalwood.[7]

As trade in sandalwood declined, it was replaced by a new business enterprise, "blackbirding", a euphemism for taking Melanesian or Western Pacific Islanders from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, New Hebrides, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands into indentured or forced labour in the sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland by various methods of trickery and deception.[12] Blackbirding was practiced by both French and British-Australian traders, but in New Caledonia's case, the trade in the early decades of the twentieth century involved relocating children from the Loyalty Islands to the Grand Terre for labour in plantation agriculture. New Caledonia's primary experience with blackbirding revolved around a trade from the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) to the Grand Terre for labour in plantation agriculture, mines, as well as guards over convicts and in some public works. The historian Dorothy Shineberg's milestone study, The People Trade, discusses this 'migration'. In the early years of the trade, coercion was used to lure Melanesian islanders onto ships. In later years indenture systems were developed; however, when it came to the French slave trade, which took place between its Melanesian colonies of the New Hebrides and New Caledonia, very few regulations were implemented. This represented a departure from the British experience, since increased regulations were developed to mitigate the abuses of blackbirding and 'recruitment' strategies on the coastlines.

The first missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the Marist Brothers arrived in the 1840s.[13] In 1849, the crew of the American ship Cutter was killed and eaten by the Pouma clan.[14] Cannibalism was widespread throughout New Caledonia.[15]

French dependency

On 24 September 1853, under orders from Emperor Napoleon III, Admiral Febvrier Despointes took formal possession of New Caledonia. Captain Louis-Marie-François Tardy de Montravel founded Port-de-France (Nouméa) on 25 June 1854.[9] A few dozen free settlers settled on the west coast in the following years.[9] New Caledonia became a penal colony in 1864, and from the 1860s until the end of the transportations in 1897, France sent about 22,000 criminals and political prisoners to New Caledonia. The Bulletin de la Société générale des prisons for 1888 indicates that 10,428 convicts, including 2,329 freed ones, were on the island as of 1 May 1888, by far the largest number of convicts detained in French overseas penitentiaries.[16] The convicts included many Communards, arrested after the failed Paris Commune of 1871, including Henri de Rochefort and Louise Michel.[17] Between 1873 and 1876, 4,200 political prisoners were "relegated" to New Caledonia.[9] Only 40 of them settled in the colony; the rest returned to France after being granted amnesty in 1879 and 1880.[9]

Chief "King Jacques" and his Queen

In 1864 nickel was discovered[17] on the banks of the Diahot River; with the establishment of the Société Le Nickel in 1876, mining began in earnest.[18] To work the mines the French imported labourers from neighbouring islands and from the New Hebrides, and later from Japan, the Dutch East Indies, and French Indochina.[17] The French government also attempted to encourage European immigration, without much success.[17]

The indigenous population or Kanak people were excluded from the French economy and from mining work, and ultimately confined to reservations.[17] This sparked a violent reaction in 1878, when High Chief Atal of La Foa managed to unite many of the central tribes and launched a guerrilla war that killed 200 Frenchmen and 1,000 Kanaks.[18] A second guerrilla war took place in 1917, with Catholic missionaries like Maurice Leenhardt functioning as witnesses to the events of this war. Leenhardt would pen a number of ethnographic works on the Kanak of New Caledonia. Noel of Tiamou led the 1917 rebellion, which resulted in a number of orphaned children, one of whom was taken into the care of Protestant missionary Alphonse Rouel. This child, Wenceslas Thi, would become the father of Jean-Marie Tjibaou[19] (1936–1989).

Europeans brought new diseases such as smallpox and measles, which caused the deaths of many natives.[14] The Kanak population declined from around 60,000 in 1878 to 27,100 in 1921, and their numbers did not increase again until the 1930s.[18]

In June 1940, after the fall of France, the Conseil General of New Caledonia voted unanimously to support the Free French government, and in September the pro-Vichy governor was forced to leave for Indochina.[18] In March 1942, with the assistance of Australia,[20] the territory became an important Allied base,[18] and the main South Pacific Fleet base of the United States Navy in the South Pacific moved to Noumea in 1942–1943.[21] The fleet that turned back the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 was based at Nouméa.[18] American troops stationed on New Caledonia numbered as many as 50,000, the equivalent of the contemporary population.[9]

French overseas territory

In 1946, New Caledonia became an overseas territory.[9] By 1953, French citizenship had been granted to all New Caledonians, regardless of ethnicity.[22]

The European and Polynesian populations gradually increased in the years leading to the nickel boom of 1969–1972, and the indigenous Kanak Melanesians became a minority, though they were still the largest ethnic group.[22]

Between 1976 and 1988, conflicts between French government actions and the Kanak independence movement saw periods of serious violence and disorder.[9] In 1983, a statute of "enlarged autonomy" for the territory proposed a five-year transition period and a referendum in 1989. In March 1984, the Kanak resistance, Front Indépendantiste, seized farms and the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) formed a provisional government. In January 1985, the French Socialist government offered sovereignty to the Kanaks and legal protection for European settlers. The plan faltered as violence escalated. The government declared a state of emergency; however, regional elections went ahead, and the FLNKS won control of three out of four provinces. The centre-right government elected in France in March 1986 began eroding the arrangements established under the Socialists, redistributing lands mostly without consideration of native land claims, resulting in over two-thirds going to Europeans and less than a third to the Kanaks. By the end of 1987, roadblocks, gun battles and the destruction of property culminated in the Ouvéa cave hostage taking, a dramatic hostage crisis on the eve of the presidential elections in France. Pro-independence militants on Ouvéa killed four gendarmes and took 27 hostage. The military response resulted in nineteen Kanak deaths and another three deaths in custody.[23]

The Matignon Agreements, signed on 26 June 1988, ensured a decade of stability. The Nouméa Accord signed 5 May 1998, set the groundwork for a 20-year transition that gradually transfers competences to the local government.[9]

Following the timeline set by the Nouméa Accord that stated a vote must take place by the end of 2018, the groundwork was laid for a referendum on full independence from France at a meeting chaired by the French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on 2 November 2017, to be held by November 2018. Voter list eligibility had been a subject of a long dispute, but the details have since been resolved.[24] On 20 March 2018, the government announced a referendum that was held on 4 November 2018,[25] with independence being rejected.[26]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Nieu-Kaledonië
Alemannisch: Neukaledonien
aragonés: Nueva Caledonia
asturianu: Nueva Caledonia
azərbaycanca: Yeni Kaledoniya
Bân-lâm-gú: New Caledonia
беларуская: Новая Каледонія
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Новая Каледонія
Bikol Central: Nueva Kaledonya
български: Нова Каледония
bosanski: Nova Kaledonija
brezhoneg: Kaledonia-Nevez
Cebuano: New Caledonia
čeština: Nová Kaledonie
chiShona: New Caledonia
davvisámegiella: Ođđa-Kaledonia
Deutsch: Neukaledonien
ދިވެހިބަސް: ނިއު ކެލެޑޯނިއާ
Ελληνικά: Νέα Καληδονία
español: Nueva Caledonia
Esperanto: Nov-Kaledonio
Fiji Hindi: New Caledonia
føroyskt: Nýkaledónia
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: New Caledonia
hrvatski: Nova Kaledonija
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: কালেডোনিয়া
Bahasa Indonesia: Kaledonia Baru
italiano: Nuova Caledonia
Kapampangan: New Caledonia
kernowek: Kelesoni Nowydh
Kinyarwanda: Nuveli Kalidoniya
Kiswahili: Kaledonia Mpya
Kreyòl ayisyen: Nouvèl Kaledoni
Кыргызча: Жаңы Каледония
кырык мары: У Каледони
latviešu: Jaunkaledonija
Lëtzebuergesch: Neikaledonien
Limburgs: Nuuj-Caledonië
Lingua Franca Nova: Caledonia Nova
македонски: Нова Каледонија
მარგალური: ახალი კალედონია
Bahasa Melayu: New Caledonia
Minangkabau: Kaledonia Baru
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: New Caledonia
Nordfriisk: Neikaledoonien
Norfuk / Pitkern: Nyuu Kaledonya
norsk nynorsk: Ny-Caledonia
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Yangi kaledoniya
Tok Pisin: Niu Kaledonia
português: Nova Caledónia
Qaraqalpaqsha: Jan'a Kaledoniya
română: Noua Caledonie
Runa Simi: Kanaki
Gagana Samoa: Niu Kaletonia
Simple English: New Caledonia
slovenčina: Nová Kaledónia
slovenščina: Nova Kaledonija
српски / srpski: Нова Каледонија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Nova Kaledonija
Tagalog: New Caledonia
татарча/tatarça: Яңа Каледония
Türkçe: Yeni Kaledonya
українська: Нова Каледонія
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: يېڭى كالېدونىيە
Tiếng Việt: Nouvelle-Calédonie