Antiqua Print Gallery Colonial Fiji
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Colonial Fiji

The United Kingdom declined its first opportunity to annex Fiji in 1852. Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau had offered to cede the islands, subject to being allowed to retain his Tui Viti (King of Fiji) title, a condition unacceptable to both the British and to many of his fellow chiefs, who regarded him only as first among equals, if that. Mounting debts and threats from the United States Navy had led Cakobau to establish a constitutional monarchy with a government dominated by European settlers in 1871, following an agreement with the Australian Polynesia Company to pay his debts. The collapse of the new regime drove him to make another offer of cession in 1872, which the British accepted. On 10 October 1874, 96 years of British rule began in Fiji.
Sir Hercules Robinson, who had arrived on 23 September 1874, was appointed as interim Governor. He was replaced in June 1875 by Sir Arthur Gordon. Rather than establish direct rule in all spheres, Gordon granted autonomy over local affairs to Fiji's chiefs, though they were now forbidden to engage in tribal warfare. The colony was divided into four regions, each under the control of a Roko; these regions were further subdivided into twelve districts, each ruled by a traditional chief. A Great Council of Chiefs was established in 1876 to advise the Governor. This body continues in existence to this day and has a constitutional role as an electoral collage that chooses Fiji's President, Vice-President, and 14 of the 32 Senators. The Great Council was supplemented by a Native Regulation Board (now the Fijian Affairs Board); these two bodies together made laws for the Fijians. (European settlers, however, were not subject to its laws). In 1882, the capital was moved from Levuka to the more accessible Suva.
Adopting a "Fiji for the Fijians" policy, Gordon prohibited further sales of land, although it could be leased. This policy has been continued, hardly modified, to this day, and some 83 percent of the land is still natively owned. He also banned the exploitation of Fijians as labourers, and following the failure of the cotton-growing enterprise in the early 1870s, Gordon decided in 1878 to import indentured labourers from India to work on the sugarcane fields that had taken the place of the cotton plantations. The 463 Indians arrived on 14 May 1879 - the first of some 61,000 that were to come before the scheme ended in 1916. The plan involved bringing the Indian workers to Fiji on a five-year contract, after which they could return to India at their own expense; if they chose to renew their contract for a second five-year term, they would be given the option of returning to India at the government's expense, or remaining in Fiji. The great majority chose to stay. The Queensland Act, which regulated indentured labour in Queensland, was made law in Fiji also.

(Source Wikipedia)