British Empire Article


Blackbirding in the Pacific


For early settlers in Australia and the South Sea Islands, where the work was hard, the climate difficult and the pay low, labour recruitment always posed a problem. From the 1860s, settlers tried to solve it by "blackbirding" - tricking or abducting the workers they needed, and holding them as virtual prisoners. The'"blackbirders" were unscrupulous adventurers who sailed from island to island to round up labourers, sometimes bribing them to sign incomprehensible contracts of indenture; sometimes inviting them aboard ship and then battening them down below decks; sometimes simply storming into their villages and kidnapping them.


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