Where can I find information about the history of the Pacific?
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.
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.
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.
Go down the page and select an island, then use the filters to narrow down your search.
Or, enter search words like 'indentured labour' into the search box.
View an item like the Sailing ship which conveyed indentured labour from the Solomon Islands, Samoa.
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.
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.
Go to the section on New Zealand Peoples, then select Peoples.
Look for Fijians, Niueans, South Pacific People, Tongans, Cook Islanders, and Samoans to read about their history of migration to Aotearoa.
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.
Go to the section on Culture and Society, then look under the heading Immigration for The dawn raids: causes, impacts and legacy.
The section on Politics and Government has links to New Zealand and Samoa. It has information on New Zealand's colonial administration of Samoa and the rise of the Mau movement.
Use the section New Zealand at War to find War in the Pacific.
Or you could search for 'nuclear testing Pacific' to find an article about Nuclear testing in the Pacific.
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 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.
Look down the page for topic sets on Pacific Island countries like the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue and Samoa.
Explore Pacific: Culture, History and Geography to find stories on Pacific Migration and Settlement, Pacific Pre-Contact Culture and Customs, Pacific: First Contact with Europeans and Colonisation, New Zealand's Presence in the Pacific and more.
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.
Enter the word 'Samoa' into the search box.
Go to the tab called More, then select Articles to find Seizing German Samoa - Capture of German Samoa.
Use the search words 'Decolonising the Pacific' to find the article on the UN decolonisation meeting in Fiji.
A search for 'self-government Pacific' will help find the video A New Day in Samoa (1959). This video from Archives New Zealand is about Western Samoa achieving self-government.
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.
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 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.
Use different keywords like 'Nuclear testing Pacific, 'Pacific Islands climate change' or Pacific navigation'.
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 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.
Go to the tab called Collections to find The Pacific Collection, then watch the video The Coronation of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga.
You could also use the search box to enter 'Dawn Raids' to watch the documentary Dawn Raids.
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.
Go to the tab Coco Docos to find the Know your roots timeline.
This is New Zealand's public radio service on news, current affairs, Pacific, Te Ao Māori, sport, and business, including opinions and analysis.
Go to the tab Pacific to read the latest on Pacific stories and news.
The tab Podcasts & Series has a link to Untold Pacific History that includes the Mau Movement and Black Saturday.
Or use the search box to enter 'blackbirding' to read the article Blackbirding's dark secret revealed.
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.
Enter 'Cook Islands' into the search box, then select View or listen online now.
Listen to the audio Historical links between the Cook Islands and Māori.
Enter 'Tonga' to listen to Queen Salote of Tonga speaking from Iya in 1936.
In a similar way use the names of other islands in the Pacific region or historical events to find information on them.
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.
Adventures of Tupaia by Courtney Sina Meredith.
Dawn raids by Oscar Kightley.
Polynesian Panthers: Pacific protest and affirmative action in Aotearoa New Zealand 1971-1981 edited by Melani Anae, Lautofa Iuli and Leilani Tamu.
Tangata o le moana: New Zealand and the people of the Pacific edited by Sean Mallon, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai and Damon Salesa.
Voyagers: the settlement of the Pacific by Nicholas Thomas.
SCIS no: 5468581
History (New Zealand)
Where can I find information about New Zealand history?
Discover resources related to Pacific culture, history and geography.
Where can I find facts and information about the Cook Islands, like Rarotonga?
Where can I find information about Fiji?
Where can I find information about Kiribati?
Where can I find information about Niue?
Where can I find information about Samoa?
Where can I find information about Tonga?
Where can I find information about Vanuatu?
Discover resources related to the history of New Zealand.
Where can I find information about Māori history?
Where can I find information about world history?
Discover resources related to pacific navigation.
Where can I find information about Pacific navigation?
Where can I find information about the Pacific Islands?
Pacific Islands: 21st Century
Discover resources related to issues facing the Pacific Islands in the 21st century.
Reo, 'Ōlelo, Gagana (Pacific Languages)
Disover resources related to pacific langauges.