Emalus Campus

Emalus Campus

Western Pacific High Commission (Gilbert & Ellice Islands, New Hebrides, Solomon Islands, Tonga)

(Quoting this entry on the New Zealand National National Register of Archives and Manuscripts)

"The Western Pacific High Commission was established by Order in Council in 1877 to extend British authority over British subjects in the islands of the southwest Pacific, then outside any formal colonial control. For the first 75 years of its existence, it was located in Fiji, where the posts of High Commissioner and Governor of Fiji were held conjointly. Following the Berlin Congress of 1884- 85, a further Order in Council in 1893 vested the High Commissioner with executive and legislative powers and re-defined his jurisdiction, limiting it to territories under British control. By 1900 his responsibilities comprised the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, the New Hebrides, Tonga and Pitcairn.

Intended initially to control the more unruly and illegal activities of European traders and settlers (especially the labour traffic), the Commission over time became a vehicle for British imperial expansion generally, taking on comprehensive administrative functions in the New Hebrides, Gilberts and Solomons including health, taxation, communications, land policy, and public works.

In 1952 the posts of High Commissioner and Governor of Fiji were separated and the WHPC moved to Honiara, where the High Commissioner became Governor of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate in addition to his other duties. The earlier records remained in Suva where they were administered as part of the newly created Central Archives of Fiji and the Western Pacific.

When Fiji became independent in 1970, the Fijian records were transferred to its new government and the Central Archives were disbanded. The remaining collections then formed the newly established Western Pacific Archives. At this time the WPA comprised the files of the High Commission itself, together with records relating to the New Hebrides British Service, the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, the British Agent, later Commissioner and Consul, Tonga, and Pitcairn. As the High Commissioner's responsibilities diminished with de-colonisation, the Western Pacific High Commission became increasingly redundant and in 1978 the Western Pacific Archives closed. Most of the post-WWII records of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands were sent to Tarawa (Kiribati) and Funafuti (Tuvalu), although the earlier material relating to these territories remains an integral part of the Commission's archives ; those of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate were sent to Honiara; and those of the Western Pacific High Commission were sent to London together with records relating to Pitcairn, Tonga and the New Hebrides."

The Western Pacific Archives, which is a combination of records from different bodies, primarily those of the Western Pacific High Commission, but also including the territorial records of the British Agent and Consul in Tonga and the New Hebrides British Service are now located in Auckland University, New Zealand.

For further background to the Western Pacific High Commission, see Fragments of Empire : a history of the Western Pacific High Commission, 1877-1914 / by Deryck Scarr. Canberra, [A.C.T.] : Australian University Press, 1967.


The following materials are held in hard copy in the Emalus Campus Library of the University of the South Pacific. 


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