Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, was jointly administered by the United Kingdom and France as the New Hebrides until it attained independence in 1980. The islands were inhabited for several thousand years before the arrival of the Europeans in 1606. They were named the New Hebrides by Captain James Cook in 1774, but it was not until 1825 that the first Europeans started settling to exploit the sandalwood on the island of Erromango. Later in the 19th century there was the prevalence of “blackbirding,” with sea captains kidnapping adult males to work in near slave conditions in Queensland, Australia, or Fiji.

Some settlers arrived in the 1860s to establish cotton plantations in order to take advantage of the high cotton prices during ...

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