New Hebrides

Last updated

New Hebrides Condominium
Condominium des Nouvelles-Hébrides
Vanuatu on the globe (Polynesia centered).svg
Capital Port Vila
Common languages English, French, Bislama
Resident Commisoner 
Legislature Representative Assembly (1975–1980)
20 October 1906
30 July 1980
Currency New Hebrides franc, Australian dollar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Franceville.svg Anglo-French Joint Naval Commission
Vanuatu Flag of Vanuatu.svg
Map of the New Hebrides, 1905 Neue Hebriden 140543a.jpg
Map of the New Hebrides, 1905
The Joint Court in 1914 New Hebrides Joint Court 1914.png
The Joint Court in 1914

New Hebrides, officially the New Hebrides Condominium (French : Condominium des Nouvelles-Hébrides, lit. "Condominium of the New Hebrides") and named after the Hebrides Scottish archipelago, was the colonial name for the island group in the South Pacific Ocean that is now Vanuatu. Native people had inhabited the islands for three thousand years before the first Europeans arrived in 1606 from a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós. The islands were named by Captain James Cook in 1774 and subsequently colonised by both the British and the French.


The two countries eventually signed an agreement making the islands an Anglo-French condominium that provided for joint sovereignty over the archipelago with two parallel administrations, one British, one French. [1] In some respects, that divide continued even after independence, with schools teaching in either one language or the other. The condominium lasted from 1906 until 1980, when New Hebrides gained its independence as the Republic of Vanuatu.

Politics and economy

New Hebrides was a rare form of colonial territory in which sovereignty was shared by two powers, Britain and France, instead of being exercised by just one. Under the condominium there were three separate governments – one French, one British, and one joint administration that was partially elected after 1975, when elections to the New Hebrides Condominium Representative Assembly took place. [2]

The French and British governments were called residencies, each headed by a resident appointed by the metropolitan government. The residency structure greatly emphasised dualism, with both consisting of an equal number of French and British representatives, bureaucrats and administrators. Every member of one residency always had an exact mirror opposite number on the other side whom they could consult. The symmetry between the two residencies was almost exact.

The joint government consisted of both local and European officials. It had jurisdiction over the postal service, public radio station, public works, infrastructure, and censuses, among other things. The two main cities of Luganville and Port Vila also had city councils, but these did not have a great deal of authority.[ clarification needed ]

While initial settlers were predominantly British living in Australia, the late 19th century saw an influx of French. Within a few decades, there were twice as many French on the islands as there were British, prompting a multitude of petitions to cede power to either the French or the British. Despite this, the two nations came together to form a condominium, a specialised form of government where both nations would have all of their own administrations and jointly rule the islands. The only place they came together was in the Joint Court. As Mander describes, "The Joint Court was the key to the situation and much was to depend upon it….Three judges–one British, one French, and the third nominated by the King of Spain–were to comprise the court." [3] This meant convictions in court were chosen based on either British or French law, depending on the circumstances.

Other than the Joint Court, everything existed in pairs. "Cynics called the Condominium 'the Pandemonium', as the dual administration produced amazing duplication. There were two police forces with their own laws, including road laws, two health services, two education systems, two currencies, and two prison systems." [4] Additionally, there were separate British and French governments, which meant two immigration policies, two courts (apart from the Joint Court), and two corporation laws. Inhabitants of the islands were given the choice of which government they wanted to be ruled by. As Miles put it, "The result was an inevitable clash of foreign policy and colonial mentality." [5]

Local people could choose whether to be tried under the English common law or the French civil law. Visitors could choose which immigration rules to enter under. Nationals of one country could set up corporations under the laws of the other. In addition to these two legal systems, a third Native Court existed to handle cases involving Melanesian customary law. There was also a Joint Court, composed of British and French judges. The President of the Joint Court was appointed by the King of Spain until 1939 when the post was abolished after the retirement of the last President, partly due to the abolition of the Spanish monarchy in 1931. [6]

There were two prison systems to complement the two court systems. The police force was technically unified but consisted of two chiefs and two equal groups of officers wearing two different uniforms. Each group alternated duties and assignments.

Language was a serious barrier to the operation of the naturally inefficient system, as all documents had to be translated once to be understood by one side, then the response translated again to be understood by the other, though Bislama creole represented an informal bridge between the British and the French camps.

The condominium was not beneficial for Ni-Vanuatu, as they were "...officially stateless. [For instance,] To travel abroad, they needed an identifying document signed by both the British and the French resident commissioners." [4] Inevitably, that led to discontent across the islands, with a multitude of revolutionary groups forming in an attempt to create agency and self-government for themselves.

During the Second World War, approximately 10,000 Ni-Vanuatu men served in the Vanuatu Labor Corps, a labor battalion of the United States Armed Forces. They provided logistical support to the Allied war effort during the Guadalcanal Campaign. The mass participation of Ni-Vanuatu men in the Labor Corps had a significant effect on the John Frum movement, giving it the characteristics of a cargo cult. [7]


New Hebrides became internally self-governing in January 1978. [8]

Chief ministers of the New Hebrides Condominium

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vanuatu</span> Country in Oceania

Vanuatu, officially the Republic of Vanuatu, is an island country in Melanesia, located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 km (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 540 km (340 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Vanuatu</span>

The history of Vanuatu spans over 3,200 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Politics of Vanuatu</span> Political system of Vanuatu

The politics of Vanuatu take place within the framework of a constitutional democracy. The constitution provides for a representative parliamentary system. The head of the Republic is an elected President. The Prime Minister of Vanuatu is the head of government.

A condominium in international law is a political territory in or over which multiple sovereign powers formally agree to share equal dominium and exercise their rights jointly, without dividing it into "national" zones.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">President of Vanuatu</span> Head of state of the Republic of Vanuatu

The president of Vanuatu is the head of state of Vanuatu. The president is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and the presidents of the regional councils.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Postage stamps and postal history of Vanuatu</span>

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Vanuatu, formerly known as the New Hebrides, an island group in the South Pacific. Between 1906 and 1980, the islands were an Anglo-French Condominium.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shefa Province</span> Province of Vanuatu

Shefa is one of the six provinces of Vanuatu, located in the center of the country and including the islands of Epi and Efate and the Shepherd Islands. The province's name is derived from the initial letters of SHepherd and EFAte. It has a population of 78,723 people and an area of 1,455 km2. Its capital is Port Vila, which is also the capital of the nation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British Western Pacific Territories</span> Colonial entity

The British Western Pacific Territories (BWPT) was a colonial entity created in 1877 for the administration of a series of Pacific islands in Oceania under a single representative of the British Crown, styled the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. Except for Fiji and the Solomon Islands, most of these colonial possessions were relatively minor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ni-Vanuatu</span> Melanesian ethnic groups native to the island country of Vanuatu

Ni-Vanuatu is a large group of closely related Melanesian ethnic groups native to the island country of Vanuatu. As such, Ni-Vanuatu are a mixed ethnolinguistic group with a shared ethnogenesis that speak a multitude of languages.

The concept of Melanesian socialism was first advocated by Father Walter Lin̄i of the New Hebrides, who became the country's first Prime Minister upon its independence from France and the United Kingdom in 1980. Lin̄i's views on socialism were inspired by Julius Nyerere's experiments in African socialism in Tanzania.

Rugby union in Vanuatu, formerly known as the New Hebrides, is a popular sport. Vanuatu is a tier three rugby union playing nation. They began playing international rugby union in 1966 and have yet to make the Rugby World Cup.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franceville, New Hebrides</span> 1889–90 commune in present-day Port Vila, Vanuatu

Franceville was a municipality located on Efate, or Sandwich Island. It was established in 1889 in order to gain basic legal status, during the period when the New Hebrides was a neutral territory under the loose jurisdiction of the Anglo-French Joint Naval Commission.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of Vanuatu</span> Overview of and topical guide to Vanuatu

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Vanuatu:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">France–Vanuatu relations</span> Bilateral relations

The French Republic and the Republic of Vanuatu have long-standing bilateral relations which have varied over the years between tense and amicable. Vanuatu, then known as the New Hebrides, was a Franco-British condominium from 1906 to 1980, and maintained formal relations with both of its former colonial masters after gaining independence. Franco–Vanuatuan relations were rocked by a series of crises in the 1980s, and broke down completely on several occasions, with Vanuatu expelling the French ambassador in 1981, in 1984 and in 1987. Relations improved from the 1990s onwards and, today, France provides development aid to Vanuatu. The two countries also share amicable economic and cultural relations; both are members of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coconut War</span> 1980 rebellion in Vanuatu

The Coconut War was a brief clash between Papua New Guinean soldiers and rebels in Espiritu Santo shortly before and after the independence of the Republic of Vanuatu was declared on 30 July 1980.

Law in the Republic of Vanuatu consists of a mixed system combining the legacy of English common law, French civil law and indigenous customary law. The Parliament of Vanuatu is the primary law-making body today, but pre-independence French and British statutes, English common law principles and indigenous custom all enjoy constitutional and judicial recognition to some extent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1975 New Hebridean general election</span>

General elections were held for the first time in the New Hebrides on 10 November 1975. The result was a victory for the New Hebrides National Party, which won 17 seats in the new Representative Assembly.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vanuatu Labor Corps</span> Labor unit of the United States Army and the United States Navy

The Vanuatu Labor Corps was a labour unit of the United States Army and the United States Navy, consisting of New Hebrides natives. The unit was established in 1942 and dissolved in 1945. During its service it provided crucial logistical support to the Allied war effort during the Guadalcanal Campaign. It was jointly led by Major George Riser and Thomas Beatty, while its size fluctuated between 1,000 and 10,000 men.

Ni-Vanuatu nationality law is regulated by the 1980 Constitution of Vanuatu, as amended; the 1980 Citizenship Act, and its revisions; and various international agreements to which the country is a signatory. These laws determine who is, or is eligible to be, a national of Vanuatu. Ni-Vanuatu nationality is typically obtained under the principle of jus sanguinis, i.e. by birth in Vanuatu or abroad to parents with ni-Vanuatu nationality. It can be granted to persons with an affiliation to the country, or to a permanent resident who has lived in the country for a given period of time through naturalisation. Vanuatu has had several programs that grant honorary citizenship by investment. Nationality establishes one's international legal identity as a member of a sovereign nation. Though it is not synonymous with citizenship, for rights granted under domestic law for domestic purposes, the United Kingdom, and thus the commonwealth, have traditionally used the words interchangeably.


  1. Blais, Hélène (2019). "Sharing Colonial Sovereignty? The Anglo-French Experience of the New Hebrides Condominium, 1880s–1930s". In Fichter, James R. (ed.). British and French Colonialism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series. Springer International Publishing. pp. 225–247. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-97964-9_10. ISBN   9783319979649. S2CID   201397581.
  2. "Vanuatu - a brief history from 12 - Vanuatu". RNZ.
  3. Mander 1944 , p. 152
  4. 1 2 Harewood et al. 2006
  5. Miles 1994 , p. 201
  6. Woodward, Keith (2014). A Political Memoir of the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides. Australian National University. doi: 10.22459/PMAFCNH.10.2014 . ISBN   9781925022209 . Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  7. Lindstrom 1991, pp. 49–53.
  8. Jupp, James; Sawer, Marian (1979). "New Hebrides 1978-79: Self-Government by Whom and for Whom?". The Journal of Pacific History. 14 (4): 208–220. doi:10.1080/00223347908572377. JSTOR   25168391.

16°38′S168°01′E / 16.633°S 168.017°E / -16.633; 168.017