For much of the 1800s, whalers, merchants, and missionaries were the only visitors to the Pacific Islands.

From Ports of Call to Colonies

By the late 1800s, nationalist rivalries led European powers to claim Pacific islands as colonies. France set up a protectorate over Tahiti, but soon made it a colony. The race was on for control of the Pacific Islands.

In 1878, the United States secured an unequal treaty from Samoa, a group of islands in the South Pacific. The United States gained rights such as extraterritoriality and a naval station.

Other nations gained similar agreements. As their rivalry increased, the United States, Germany, and Britain agreed to a triple protectorate over Samoa.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, American sugar growers pressed for power in the Hawaiian Islands. When the Hawaiian queen Liliuokalani (lih lee uh oh kuh LAH nee) tried to reduce foreign influence, American planters overthrew her in 1893. They then asked the United States to annex Hawaii, which it did in 1898. Supporters of annexation argued that if the United States did not take Hawaii, Britain or Japan might do so.

Imperialist Rivalry

By 1900, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany had claimed nearly every island in the Pacific. Japan, too, wanted a share of the region. Eventually, it would gain German possessions in the Pacific, setting the stage for a growing rivalry with the United States.

Although small in size, the Pacific Islands offered economic benefits to colonial powers. In Hawaii, sugarcane plantations were profitable. Elsewhere, imperial powers tapped into local resources such as nickel, or even guano, bird droppings used to make fertilizer. For imperialist powers locked in a global race for colonies, the Pacific Islands provided useful ports for their merchant ships and warships.

Europeans in Australia

The Dutch in the 1600s were the first Europeans to reach Australia—the world's largest island and smallest continent. In 1770, Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Britain. For a time, however, Australia remained too distant to attract European settlers.

Photograph of Queen Liliuokalani seating on a large, ornate chair. She is wearing pearls, a sash and a dress.

Queen Liliuokalani reduced benefits to American businesses operating in Hawaii, generating opposition from businessmen like Sanford Dole of the pineapple industry.

Australia's Indigenous People

Like most regions claimed by imperialist powers, Australia had long been inhabited by other people. The first settlers had reached Australia about 40,000 years ago, probably from Southeast Asia. These indigenous, or original, inhabitants were called Aborigines, a European word for earliest people to live in a place. Today, many Australian Aborigines call themselves Kooris.

Isolated from the larger world, the Aborigines lived in small hunting and food-gathering bands, much as their Stone Age ancestors had. Aboriginal groups spoke as many as 250 distinct languages. When white settlers arrived in Australia, the indigenous population suffered disastrously just as it had in the Americas after the arrival of Columbus.

A Penal Colony

Events in North America and Britain ended Australia's isolation. During the 1700s, Britain had sent convicts to its North American colonies, especially to Georgia. The American Revolution closed that outlet just as the Industrial Revolution was disrupting British society. British prisons were filled with poor people arrested for minor crimes such as stealing food, or serious crimes, such as murder.

To fill the need for prisons, Britain made Australia into a penal colony, a place to send people convicted of crimes.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments