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Historical Archaeology of Early Modern Colonialism in Asia-PacificThe Southwest Pacific and Oceanian Regions$
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Maria Cruz Berrocal and Cheng-hwa Tsang

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780813054759

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813054759.001.0001

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When “Early” Modern Colonialism Comes Late

When “Early” Modern Colonialism Comes Late

Historical Archaeology in Vanuatu

(p.57) 4 When “Early” Modern Colonialism Comes Late
Historical Archaeology of Early Modern Colonialism in Asia-Pacific

James L. Flexner

Matthew Spriggs

University Press of Florida

The Early Modern Period of world history is framed in terms of centuries1400–1800 CE. A host of major transformations occurred within global environments, economies, religions, and societies. Yet, these broad trends are countered by evidence for local dynamics that diverge from the grander sweep of history. This was true in Remote Oceania, where colonial encounters were few and far between prior to the later part of the eighteenth century. While acknowledging that there is a use for abstract periods and themes, archaeological materials provide a counterpoint to the stories that grow out of histories penned in broad strokes. The Melanesian archipelago of Vanuatu provides a valuable case in point. Evidence from ethnohistory and archaeology counters the idea that early modern transitions were results of European cultural expansion. Local perspectives emphasize the centrality of Melanesian islanders in local and regional colonial history, especially in the adoption and adaptation of Christianity. The part of Vanuatu’s history that might be referred to as early modernity goes past the usual temporal boundaries of this period, since it was not until the early twentieth century that a formal” colonial regime was established in New Hebrides (as Vanuatu was called before its independence in 1980).

Keywords:   Oceania, Vanuatu, Missions, ethnohistory, Melanesian, Christianity

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