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Library Subject Guides

Pacific and Pasifika: Colonial Government Information

Finding colonial government information about the Pacific

This page is an introduction to some sources of official documents produced by colonial governments in some Pacific countries. It does not aim to be comprehensive and is a work-in-progress. Contact me for help identifying more material. Suggestions for additions or corrections are welcomed.

Search Strategies

Archives of both colonising/invading and Pacific countries are a primary source of colonial documents. Usually only a little of this material has been digitised. Archives are organised by the agency that created them rather than by subject. 
Parliamentary publications are an excellent source of official reports, parliamentary debates, legislation and more, and this material is often available online.
It is worth searching both the British and New Zealand Archives and Parliamentary publications for all Pacific countries of interest. These are in the far right column. Suggestions for searching other sources are listed by country.

The Macmillan Brown Library has some published colonial material including Colonial Office reports. It also has useful background and secondary information. Individual search suggestions are listed by country.
When looking at results from a Library Catalogue search, change ‘sort by’ to  publication year (ascending) to get the original colonial documents displaying first rather than works about them.
To get the broadest range of material do a keyword search on the name of the country and coloni* but be aware that this will bring up irrelevant material so do the more focussed searches first.

The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau microfilms held in the Macmillan Brown Library contain a considerable amount of colonial material relating to the Pacific. To browse these, do a keyword search on Pacific Manuscripts Bureau.

To find published overviews of colonisation and decolonisation in the Pacific, browse the library catalogue with subject headings beginning with Oceania -- Colonization -- History and Decolonization – Oceania.

Pacific Countries

Search the NZ and British Archives and Parliamentary resources to the right for all countries in this list.

Search the library catalogue using the subjects beginning with Cook Islands. Resident Commissioner's Office.

Cook Islands Government records at the University of Auckland. 1888-1975. Includes Native Land Court Titles register and Minute-books, miscellaneous land records, genealogies, and High Court records of births.

Search the library catalogue using the keywords Britain Colonial Fiji

National Archives of Fiji. Resources are described but are not available online. Their series are:


The Turnbull Library holds some records of the Fiji Government Central Archives.

Search the library catalogue with the keywords Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony  

The Western Pacific Archives. Find more information in the middle column.

Search the library catalogue with the subjects beginning with British New Guinea -- Colonization -- History; New Guinea -- Annexation to Great Britain; German New Guinea; New Guinea (Territory) -- History -- Sources and Australia -- Colonies -- Administration.

Papua New Guinea Patrol reports online.

National Archives of Australia hold microfilms of some documents. See their Papua New Guinea research guide.

Archives New Zealand holds records from the middle of the 19th C to the first quarter of the 20th Century. To find what material is held, you can click on this link and scroll down to below the timeline to a list of the agencies involved in the colonial administration, then click through to find more detail on the Archway Archives database. Alternatively you can search Archway directly. The Samoan land records and records on the Mau movement within this collection have been digitised.  

Search the library catalogue with the author beginning with British Solomon Islands and a subject keyword search Solomon Islands coloni*

The Western Pacific Archives. Find more information in the right column.

Search the library catalogue with the keywords Tonga Britain colonial

The Turnbull Library in Wellington holds some Tongan Government archive material for 1926-65. Access requires written permission from the Tongan Government. It includes Tongan Defence Force personnel files of WWll recruits and  Ministry of Justice records for 1905-95. Contact the Turnbull Library for more information. 

The Western Pacific Archives. Find more information in the right column.


The Western Pacific Archives. Find more information in the right column.

Colonising/invading countries


1. Parliamentary Publications

1.1 ProQuest UK Parliamentary Papers. These historic United Kingdom Parliamentary publications include:
•    Bills and Acts
•    Reports of Standing & Select Committees & Joint Committees
•    Reports of Royal Commissions and government departments (including accounts) 
•    Reports of tribunals and commissions of enquiry including letters from governors and army officers abroad, treaties, statistics, census data, trade, commercial and navigation information and more 
•    Debates of the House of Commons/House of Lords = Hansards. This is the official record of things said in Parliament and is also available at the UK Parliament website (see below).
To get an idea of what’s included, type in the name of the country you are interested in then use the limits on the left to narrow it down to a date or type of publication.

1.2 The UK Parliament website. You can find the Journals of the House of Commons/House of Lords (the official record of the proceedings and decisions of Parliament) which include written answers to questions here. These are organised by session. You can keyword search within each session.

2. Archives

2.1 National Archives.
Search at Discovery. You can refine by “Available for download only” to find full text material
For an introduction to the resources, see their research guides particularly Colonies and dependencies from 1782- 

2.2 The Western Pacific Archives at the University of Auckland Library. 
These contain the records of the British colonial administration in the Western Pacific from 1877-1978. They include The Solomon Islands, Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati and Tuvalu), New Hebrides (Vanuatu) and Tonga.
To find what they include and how to search them read their guide. To search the archvies use the search box on the Manuscripts and Archives page.

There's an excellent guide to legal sources covered by the British colonial administration of the Western Pacific: Charting the legal systems of the Western Pacific Islands.There is a lending copy in the Macmillan Brown Library.

3. Published material in the Macmillan Brown Library

Browse the library catalogue with subject headings beginning with
Great Britain -- Colonies -- Oceanica 
Great Britain -- Foreign relations -- Oceania


1. Parliamentary Publications

The historical New Zealand Parliamentary Papers (1854-1950) contain reports and proceedings of the official Residents/administration, ordinances, statistics, census data, budget information and more. 

Historical Hansards contain the text of debates in Parliament (1854- ) 

Historical NZ Legislation 

2. Archives

2.1 Archives New Zealand’s Archway database  
There is information on the structure of their records and how to search for material on their homepage.

2.2. Turnbull Library Tiaki database of unpublished material.
This includes some archives and other documents on Pacific countries.


Documents on Australian Foreign Policy: Australia and Papua New Guinea 1966-69


1. Archives

Archives Nationales d’outre-mer 

2. Published Material

Browse the library catalogue using the keywords
France Colonies Oceania
France Colonies Caledonia