Hale ‘Tamil’ Indentured Labours: Initiation of Colonial Emigration from the Targeted Indian Villages, 1879 – 1922

திடகாத்திரமான ‘தமிழ்’ ஒப்பந்தக் கூலிகள்: இந்தியக் கிராமங்களை தொட்ட காலனியப் புலப்பெயர்வு, 1879-1922

  • J Shunmugaraja Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Modern History, School of Historical Studies, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India
Keywords: Indian Indentured Labour System, Colonialism, Indians in Fiji, Sugarcane Plantations, Hale Tamil Labourers, Indentured Labour Acts, Colonial Child Labour, Ships meant for Fiji, Emigration, Labour Recruitment from Madras Presidency


Fiji is a small island country, situated in the Southern Pacific Ocean.The Fijian group of islands number 250, of which about 80 are inhabited. The first missionaries to arrive in Fiji were from Tonga. On landing in October 1835, they began their work at a time when the political state of Fiji was in formative stage. The annexation of Fiji had been urged by both Australia and England since 1869.In 1873 the Earl of Kimberly commissioned Commodore Goodenough, the squadron of the Australian station and E.L. Layard, then Britian’s Consul in Fiji, to investigate and report on the matter. On10 October 1874, the mission was completely successful and the sovereignty of the islands was ceded to the British Crown by the Cakobau, the Chief of Bau, Maafu, the Head of the confederacy and the other principal chiefs, in a deed of cession signed. A charter was shortly afterwards issued by Queen Victoria creating the islands as a Crown Colony and for providing a Government of the Empire there. The emigration of Indians into Fiji commenced in 1879. The campaign against slavery and its eventual abolition in Europe coincided with the ruin of Indian peasantry and the overwhelmingly redundant wage labour available in India by the first quarter of 19th century prompted the European planters to consider India, a favourable recruiting ground for their required plantation labour.The British colonizers had established sugarcane plantations in the island. For the non-availability of the local labourers for doing the manual labour in the plantations they approached the British Indian government for availing cheap labour force. The Colonial Government of India accepted their demand and through the Act XXI of 1883 included the Fiji legally into other countries for the Indian labourers emigration. The objective of this paper is to study the emigration of labour from (India) Madras Presidency to Fiji in the 19th and 20th century. There are three sections in this narrative account. The first and second sections of the paper deals with the issues regarding the Acts which were used for governing the emigration of Indian Indentured Labours from India to Fiji Islands, experiments of introduction of new Indian Indentured Labourers and the establishment of new larger Sugarcane Plantations and Factories with huge capitals on the Fiji Islands. The final section narrates theplightfulstories of recruitment of Tamil Indentured Labours from Madras Presidency to Fiji Islands and their painful working conditions in the plantations.

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