The pre-contact period of the Fiji Islands comprised of an initial sighting by the west in 1642 by way of the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman. A subsequent visit by the famous explorer Capt. James Cook to the Fiji Islands ensued in the later year of 1774. The determining factor resulting in the pre-contact period was primarily attributed to Fiji’s notorious reputation owing to that of its ferocious cannibals and treacherous reefs, and as a result of these malevolent factors European exploration and settlement in Fiji was limited for many years.
The Sandalwood rush
The sandalwood rush between 1804 and 1813 brought about an influx of traders; and this was followed by the arrival of more traders in 1820 seeking that of beche-de-mer. The post-contact period was greatly defined by the establishment of the first European-style town at Levuka on Ovalau in the early 1820’s by traders who had initially arrived during the pre-contact period sandalwood rush.
Cakobau and the abolition of cannibalism
A predominant milestone in the history of Fiji involved the rule of prominent Bau chief “Tanoa” for many years, who was later succeeded by his son Cakobau; infamously termed the self-styled “king of Fiji”. Cannibalism in Fiji prevailed from before the 20th century .War was considered synonymous with the eating of flesh, and this had significant bearing upon Fijian culture itself; as it was considered a normal and conventional practice. The abolition of cannibalism came about when the prominent chief Cakobau converted to Christianity in 1854 and forbade the practice of cannibalism.
The cession of the Fiji Islands
The Fiji Islands were ceded to Great Britain in 1874 in Levuka; after a plethora of economic and socio-economic disputes threatened to plunge the country into a race war. The first British colony Governor Sir Arthur Gordon convinced the European planters to bring in indentured laborers from India in order to maintain the sugarcane industry; which superseded the seemingly profitless cotton trade.
The independent state of Fiji
The infrastructure for the independent state of Fiji was nurtured by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, one of the highest ranking Fijian chiefs who used his bureaucratic position in a bid to educate native Fijians in this regard. In 1970 the Dominion of Fiji became an independent member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Under the new 1970 constitution Fiji had a Westminster–style Parliament comprising of an elected house of representatives and a senate composed of Fijian chiefs.
The prevalence of Coup’d’etat in Fijian political history
The Fiji Islands have experienced four definitive coups throughout the past two decades. These have mostly stemmed from the tensions emanating between the ethnic Fijians and Indian Fijians. Religion plays a decisive role in these differences; whereby the majority of ethnic Fijians belong to the Methodist church, and the majority of Indians are of Hindu faith.