Pacific history

Where can I find information about the history of the Pacific?

Junior Secondary

(Years 7-10)

Black and White photo of a Mau movement parade outside the Apia Couthouse in 1929.

Image: Mau parade - June 1929 by [unknown] on Wikimedia Commons.

Entry last updated: 19/09/23


The geographic region of the Pacific Islands includes Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. It is believed that thousands of years ago people came to this region from Southeast Asia.

This entry will guide you to the most reliable websites to find information on Pacific histories such as early migrations, navigation, exploration, colonisation, and self-government as well as current-day Pacific Islands issues such as global warming.

Historic events in the Pacific

Here is a list of some important historical events that impacted the Pacific Islands. Use these words as search words in the websites listed below to understand more about them.

Indentured labour: Between 1878 and 1916, indentured labourers from British India signed a girmit (agreement) to work on the sugar plantations in Fiji for a period of 5 years.

1918 flu pandemic: On 7 November 1918, the flu spread to Samoa when infected passengers on board a ship from New Zealand to Samoa were allowed to disembark.

Mau Movement: A non-violent movement that began in the 1920s in Samoa against the colonial government of New Zealand.

Second World War (1939 to 1945): New Zealand soldiers were based in Fiji, New Caledonia and the Soloman Islands in the Pacific. Men from the Cook Islands, Niue and other Pacific Islands enlisted to be part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).

Nuclear testing in the Pacific: After the Second World War the Marshall Islands, Bikini Atoll and Mururoa Atoll were some of the islands that were impacted by nuclear testing.

Dawn Raids: The New Zealand government cracked down on alleged overstayers from the Pacific Islands in the 1970s.

Polynesian Panther Party: A social justice group formed in 1971 by young Pacific Peoples in Auckland.

General websites

Use these websites to discover information on the history of the Pacific Islands from early Pacific navigation, exploration, colonisation, decolonisation, self-government and immigration to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Digital Pasifik

This site is supported by the Australian Government and implemented by the National Library of New Zealand and the National Library of Australia. Use this site to explore the rich cultural heritage of the countries in the Pacific from different institutions around the world.

Tips: Before searching it can be useful to come up with a list of words to use. These are called keywords or search words. They can be the name of a person, place, or event you are researching.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Owned by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, Te Ara answers all questions about the people, environment, history, culture and society of New Zealand. You will also find information about the history of the Pacific Islands.


NZHistory is another great website from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage for information about events, people and places in New Zealand's history, and its impact on Pacific nations.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. Te Ara and NZHistory are websites that have information on New Zealand the islands in the Pacific.

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a range of quality resources for students on various curriculum topics. The items have been selected from reliable national and international websites.

Tips: Stories can be told in different ways. It’s a good idea to look at multiple information sources about a topic to help you put together your own narrative.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different New Zealand websites such as libraries, museums, universities and government sites. You can also use this site to look for information about the countries in the Pacific.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

PapersPast — Newspapers

This is a searchable collection of early NZ newspapers digitised by the National Library and partners. In 2015 National Library added historic newspapers in Māori (1842 to 1935).

  • Enter the words eg 'Fiji independence' into the search box.

  • Select an article eg Independence for Fiji dated 14 February 1970.

  • Use the filter Between dates to narrow the date range to 1970 to read other articles about this event in Fiji's history.

Tips: Newspapers can be good for looking at how things have continued or changed over time. Remember, stories can be told in different ways so it’s helpful to look at multiple information sources to find different perspectives.

New Zealand Geographic Online

New Zealand Geographic is part of EPIC, a collection of databases put together for students in Aotearoa. You will find here magazines dating back to 1989 on New Zealand's biodiversity, geography, and culture, including Antarctica and the Pacific Islands.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Videos & audio

Below is a list of websites that have lots of videos and audio on the history of the Pacific region.

NZ On Screen

NZ On Screen is an online showcase of New Zealand television, film and music videos. It is especially useful for NZ history queries requiring primary source or multimedia information.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

Aimed at New Zealand's Pacific Peoples community, this website has lots of cultural information, songs, recipes, stories, news, videos, and links to the history of the Pacific.

Radio New Zealand

This is New Zealand's public radio service on news, current affairs, Pacific, Te Ao Māori, sport, and business, including opinions and analysis.

Tips: It’s worth checking out what the other major news sites have on a topic too. Check out NewsHub or NZHerald to see what they have on a topic.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Funded by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, this website is New Zealand’s audio-visual archive. Their collection includes film and television, radio and sound recordings, props, posters and more from over 120 years of New Zealand’s history.


You will find lots of books on the Pacific Islands in your school library or community library. Below are some titles to help you begin your search.

SCIS no: 5468581

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