Article published on 27 January 2024
last modification on 12 February 2024


Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

Next to land occupied by a small population of European origin (5 700 settlers in 1877), the French authorities decide to establish a penal colony for common law criminals (the transported) and, after the Commune of 1872, for political prisoners (the deported). Many of them founded families there.

The end of the century sees the discovery of nickel mines and their exploitation, leading to a growth in urban and industrial populations. It remains a colony without agricultural settlers until 1895, the year when coffee is introduced. Governor Feillet made free immigration easier by granting land. Hundreds of farming concerns are then created.

The first territory to join Free France, on 20th June 1940, it is used as a rear base for American forces and a million soldiers pass through it in transit between 1942 and 1945.

Since 4th March 1946, New Caledonia has been an overseas territory of France (Territoire d’outre-mer or TOM).

FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN OCEANIA (EFO) (The present French Polynesia)

Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

The EFO consists of the Marquesas Islands (12 islands), the Windward Islands (5 islands), the most important being Tahiti which had asked for unity with France in 1880; as had the Austral Islands (4 islands), the Tuamotu Islands (80 islands and atolls) and the Gambier Islands (4 islands) in 1881; Wallis and Fortuna in 1887; the Leeward Islands (9 islands) in 1898. The inhabitants acquired French Nationality.

The islands rallying massively to the cause of Free France, the governor appointed by De Gaulle is E. de Curton*, a physician in the Colonial Health Service. In 1946, the totality of these islands are called French Polynesia. After the blueprint law on internal autonomy of 1957, the constitutional referendum establishing the Fifth Republic gathers 65% of "yes" votes. In 1958, French Polynesia becomes an overseas territory of France.

The 118 islands and atolls of the territory have a surface area of 4 000 square kilometres and are spread out over a maritime space of 5 500 000 square kilometres.

The economy of the principle island (one fourth of the territory above water), Tahiti, based at the beginning on agriculture (copra, vanilla) and fishing has been transformed by the exploitation of phosphates (1911), by tourism (after the building in 1961 of the Faaa Airport) and, from 1963 onwards, by the activities of the Pacific Experimentation Centre which coordinates French nuclear experiments.


Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

Lying between Samoa and the Fiji Islands, 2 000 kilometres east of Nouméa and 3 000 kilometres west of Tahiti, Wallis and Futuna, at 230 kilometres from each other, form two archipelagos with a combined surface area of 274 square kilometres.

Union with France was achieved in 1887. Having been rear bases of the American Army in the Pacific in 1945, these islands demanded and obtained the status of French overseas territories in 1961. Their administrative power is a territorial council consisting of a representative of France and the local kings.

An elected assembly from the territory has the powers of a regional council.


Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

The accord which led to the administration of one territory by two powers that covet it is difficult in practice. Two resident commissioners exercise their authority over their own residents.

By an agreement of 1906, France and England chose this form of government for the New Hebrides.

In 1980, Independence is proclaimed by the territories which are then called the Archipelago of Vanuatu.