Disturbing History: Resistance in Early Colonial Fiji, 1874-1914
328pp. October 2010
Disturbing History: Resistance in Early Colonial Fiji
Author: Nicole, Robert;
Disturbing History focuses on Fiji’s people and their agency in responding to and engaging the multifarious forms of authority and power that were manifest in the colony from 1874 to 1914. By concentrating on the lives of ordinary Fijians, the book presents alternate ways of reconstructing the island’s past. Couched in the traditions of social, subaltern, and people’s histories, the study is an excavation of a large mass of material that tells the often moving stories of lives that have largely been overlooked by historians. These challenge conventional historical accounts that tend to celebrate the nation, represent Fiji’s colonial experience as ordered and peaceful, or British tutelage as benevolent. In its contribution to postcolonial theory, Disturbing History reveals resistance as a constant but partial and untidy mix of other constituents such as collaboration, consent, appropriation, and opportunism, which together form the colonial landscape. In turn, colonialism in Fiji is shown as a force shaped in struggle, fractured and often fragile, with a presence and application in the daily lives of people that was often chaotic, imperfect, and susceptible to subversion.

The book divides the period of study into two broad categories: organized resistance and everyday forms of resistance. The first examines the Colo War (1876), the Tuka Movement (1878–1891), the Seaqaqa War (1894), the Movement for Federation with New Zealand (1901–1903), the Viti Kabani Movement (1913–1917), and the various organized labor protests. The second half of the book addresses resistance manifested in the villages and plantations, including tax and land boycotts, violence and retributive justice, avoidance protest, petitioning, and women’s resistance. In their entirety these forms reveal a complex web of relationships between powerful and subordinate groups and among subordinate groups themselves. The author concludes that resistance cannot be framed as a totality but as a multilayered and multidimensional reality. In the wake of Fiji’s present volatile climate, this book will aid readers in understanding the continuities and disjunctures in Fiji’s interethnic and intraethnic relations.

22 illus.

“An important book, well written and profusely documented. It is a significant contribution, not only to the history of the Pacific region, bur for colonial studies more generally.” —Pacific Affairs (85:2, June 2012)

"Nicole’s study draws existing material together and reframes it according to his specific interest in popular resistance and ‘agency.’ He shares this interest with many other recent historical (and ethnographic) texts that aim to recover the everyday experiences and actions of ordinary people, both in the Pacific and beyond. This task, for historians, is often a difficult one insofar as the written record mostly omits or neglects such experience. . . . Nicole’s work is original in the sense that no one else has pulled together in one place accounts of popular resistance and agency in the early decades of colonial Fiji. He expands what we know of the Colo War, the Tuka Movement, etc., thanks to his close reading of the archives." —Lamont Lindstrom, professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Tulsa
Author: Nicole, Robert;
Robert Nicole is currently with the University of Canterbury’s History Department.
Read the introduction (PDF).

1. The Colo War of 1876
2. Navosavakadua and the Tuka Movement
3. The Movement for Federation and the Viti Kabani
4. Organised Plantation Protest
5. Everyday Resistance in the Villages
6. Everyday Resistance on the Plantations
7. Women’s Resistance