Labour History

Sexuality, Nationalism, and “Race”: Humanitarian Debate about Indian Indenture in Fiji, 1910–18

Labour History (2017), 113, (1), 183–207.


In a 1916 report C. F. Andrews and W. W. Pearson set out their first-hand impressions of Indian indenture to Fiji. The two Englishmen had trained as Anglican clergymen and were sympathisers of the Indian nationalist cause. They saw indenture as a negative moral influence both upon those indentured and upon Britain’s civilised status. Furthermore, they considered the end of indenture to be essential to raising India’s reputation in the eyes of the world. Their findings were in many ways concerned not with the actual conditions of indentured labour, but with the local and global effects of the indignities and exploitations experienced by those seemingly brought low by the experience, particularly women who were exploited by the system but who were, in Andrews’ and Pearson’s eyes, essential to changing indenture into Indian immigration. This paper considers the role that normative ideas about heterosexuality and gender relations played in the image of a spiritual, rural Indian migrant in the Pacific who Andrews and Pearson hoped would develop Fiji. Thereby veiling the longer history of unfree labour in the region since the previous century, their conclusions would be endorsed in Australia and London through networks of progressives and anti-slavery advocates seeking renewed international attention towards the Pacific, British imperial reform, and the greater role of Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific islands.

Access Token
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar


1.SeeJohn S. Hoyland, C. F. Andrews: Minister of Reconciliation(:Allenson and Co., 1940);Hugh Tinker, The Ordeal of Love: C. F. Andrews and India(:Oxford University Press, 1979). Google Scholar

2.Brij Lal, Girmitiyas: The Origins of Fiji Indians(:Fiji Institute of Applied Studies, 2004). Google Scholar

3.Rachel Sturman, “Indian Indentured Labour and the History of International Rights Regimes,” American Historical Review 119, no.5(2014):1439–65;Daniel Roger Maul, “The International Labour Organization and the Struggle against Forced Labour from 1919 to the Present,” Labor History 48, no.4(2007):477–500. Google Scholar

4.Julia Martinez andAdrian Vickers, The Pearl Frontier: Indonesian Labor and Indigenous Encounters in Australia’s Northern Trading Network(:University of Hawai’i Press, 2015). Google Scholar

5.SeeKay Saunders, ed., Indentured Labour in the British Empire 1834–1920(:Croom Helm, 1984);Sophie Loy-Wilson andMae Ngai, eds, “Labour Rights and the Coolie Question,”special issueInternational Labor and Working-Class History 91(2017); on unfree labour more broadly, see for exampleMarcel Van Der Linden andMagaly Rodriguez Garcia, eds, On Coerced Labour: Work and Compulsion after Chattel Slavery(:Brill, 2016). Google Scholar

6.Peter Kallaway, “Education, Health and Social Welfare in the Late Colonial Context: The International Missionary Council and Educational Transition in the Interwar Years with Special Reference to Colonial Africa,” History of Education 38, no.2(2009):217–46. Google Scholar

7.Quoted in Hoyland, C. F. Andrews, 43–44. Google Scholar

8.Hoyland, C. F. Andrews, 36–37;Tinker, The Ordeal of Love, 121–26. Google Scholar

9.Frances Steel, “‘Fiji is Really the Honolulu of the Dominion’: Tourism, Empire, and New Zealand’s Pacific, ca. 1900–35,”inNew Zealand’s Empire, ed.Katie Pickles andCatharine Coleborne(:Manchester University Press, 2016), 147–62. Google Scholar

10.Duncan Bell, The Idea of Greater Britain: Empire and the Future of World Order, 1860–1900(:Princeton University Press, 2007), 176. Google Scholar

11.See for example,Warwick Anderson, “Liberal Intellectuals as Pacific Supercargo: White Australian Masculinity and Racial Thought on the Boarder-Lands,” Australian Historical Studies 46, no.3(2015):425–39. Google Scholar

12.See for exampleFiona Paisley, Glamour in the Pacific: Cultural Internationalism and Race Politics in the Women’s Pan-Pacific(:University of Hawai’i Press, 2009). Google Scholar

13.Ashutosh Kumar, “Naukari, Networks, and Knowledge: Views of Indenture in Nineteenth-Century North India,” South Asian Studies 33, no.1(2017):52–67. Google Scholar

14.C. F. Andrews andW. W. Pearson, Report on Indentured Labour in Fiji: An Independent Enquiry(:Leader Press, 1916) (hereafterReport on Indentured Labour). Google Scholar

15.Deryck Scarr, Fiji: A Short History(:George Allen and Unwin, 1984), 124ff. See alsoBrij Lal, Broken Waves: A Short History of the Fiji Islands(:University of Hawai’i Press, 1992), 43–45; for Fiji in the context of the Pacific more broadly,Tracey Banivanua Mar, Violence and Colonial Dialogue: The Australian-Pacific Indentured Labor Trade(:University of Hawai’i Press, 2007). Google Scholar

16.Mrinalini Sinha, Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire(:Duke University Press, 2006);Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The “Manly Englishman” and the “Effeminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century(:Manchester University Press, 1995). Google Scholar

17.Jane Samson, “Rescuing Fijian Women? The British Anti-Slavery Proclamation of 1852,” Journal of Pacific History 30, no.1(1995):22–38. Google Scholar

18. Report on Indentured Labour, 34. Google Scholar

19.Lal, Broken Waves, 45; see alsoTinker, The Ordeal of Love, 107–108. Google Scholar

20.Margaret Mishra, “The Emergence of Feminism in Fiji,” Women’s History Review 17, no.1(2008):39–55. Google Scholar

21.John D. Kelly, The Politics of Virtue: Hinduism, Sexuality, and Countercolonial Discourse in Fiji(:University of Chicago Press, 1991), 62. Google Scholar

22.J. W. Burton, The Fiji of Today(:CH Kelly, 1910). Google Scholar

23.Lal, Broken Waves, 44;Brij Lal, Vision for Change: A. D. Patel and the Politics of Fiji(:ANU EPress, 2011), 11. Google Scholar

24.Totaram Sanadhya, Fiji Dwip Men Mere Ikkis Varsh(My Twenty-One Years on the Fiji Islands), published in Kanpur in 1919, as discussed inRajendra Prasad, Tears in Paradise: Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji(:Glade Publishers, 2004), 121. Google Scholar

25.Prasad, Tears in Paradise, 46. Google Scholar

26.Lal, Broken Waves, 46–47;Lal, Vision for Change, 13. Google Scholar

27.Prasad, Tears in Paradise, 121. See alsoBrij Lal, “Veil of Dishonour: Sexual Jealousy and Suicide on Fiji Plantations,” Journal of Pacific History 20, no.3(1985):135–55;Report on Indentured Labour, 56. Google Scholar

28.Quoted in Lal, Broken Waves, 45. Google Scholar

29.For a contemporary account of the history of Indian labour in South Africa, seeRaymond Buell, The Native Problem in Africa, vol.1(:Bureau of International Research of Harvard University and Radcliffe College, 1928), especially “Indian Labor,” pp.23ff. Google Scholar

30.Andrews is probably best known for his role in Gandhi’s “Great Fast” in 1924 and for several books about his experiences including:C. F. Andrews, Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas(:George Allen and Unwin, 1929);C. F. Andrews, India in the Pacific(:George Allen and Unwin, 1937). See also,Isabel Hofmeyr, Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading(:Harvard University Press, 2013). Google Scholar

31.R. K. Dasgupta, “C. F. Andrews as Man of Letters,” Indian Literature 16, no.3/4(1973):150. Google Scholar

32. Report on Indentured Labour, 66. Google Scholar

33.Jane Haggis,Clare Midgley,Margaret Allen,Fiona Paisley, Cosmopolitan Lives on the Cusp of Empire: Interfaith, Cross-Cultural and Transnational Networks, 1860–1950(:Palgrave, 2017). See alsoJohn Marriott, The Other Empire: Metropolis, India and Progress in the Colonial Imagination(:Manchester University Press, 2003). Google Scholar

34.Reshaad Durgahee, “‘Native’ Villages, ‘Coolies’ Lines, and ‘Free’ Indian Settlements: The Geography of Indenture in Fiji,” South Asian Studies 33, no.1(2017):68–84. Google Scholar

35.Tinker, The Ordeal of Love, 122. No information is provided in the report concerning where they travelled within Fiji beyond Suva itself. Google Scholar

36. Report on Indentured Labour, 30. Google Scholar

37.In his study of late nineteenth century social reform through mapping city slums, Patrick Joyce compares studies of London’s poor with governance under colonial rule in India.Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City(:Verso, 2003), ch. 6. Google Scholar

38. Report on Indentured Labour, 30. Google Scholar

39. Ibid., 5. Google Scholar

40. Ibid., 65. Google Scholar

41.“Note 12: Lack of Privacy in the Present Coolie Lines,” Report on Indentured Labour, Notes, 27. Google Scholar

42. Ibid., 12–16. Google Scholar

43.“A Paper Written for the Acting Governor of Fiji,”an anonymous appendix toDongjia muhang, 4. Google Scholar

44. Ibid., 8. Google Scholar

45.Sinha, Specters of Mother India.Sinha states that C. F. Andrews travelled to the USA in 1929 specifically to counter Mayo’s thesis, and thus contributed to a new kind of anti-racist alliance emerging transnationally between African Americans and Indians as well as Japanese and Chinese;Ibid., 104. Google Scholar

46.“A Paper Written for the Acting Governor of Fiji,” Report on Indentured Labour, 5. Google Scholar

47. Report on Indentured Labour, 30. Google Scholar

48.For example,Jane Lydon, “Anti-Slavery in Australia: Picturing the 1838 Myall Creek Massacre,” History Compass 15, no.5(May2017): e12330, doi: 10.1111/hic3.12330. Google Scholar

49. Report on Indentured Labour, 63. On immigration restriction and British Indian subjects, seeMarilyn Lake andHenry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the Question of Racial Equality(:Melbourne University Press, 2008), 255–56;Kama Maclean, “Examinations, Access, and Inequity with the Empire: Britain, Australia and India, 1890–1910,” Postcolonial Studies 18, no.2(2015):115–32;Margaret Allen, “Identifying Sher Mohamad: ‘a good citizen,’”inEmpire Calling: Administering Colonial Australasia and India, ed.Ralph Crane,Anna Johnston, andC. Vijayasree(:Cambridge University Press, 2013), 103–19. For a discussion of progressive views among white Australians on the White Australia Policy in the interwar years, seeFiona Paisley, “The Spoils of Opportunity: Janet Mitchell and Australian Internationalism in the Interwar Pacific,” History Australia 13, no.4(2016):575–91. Google Scholar

50. Report on Indentured Labour, 59. Google Scholar

51.Steel, “Fiji is Really the Honolulu of the Dominion.” Google Scholar

52.“Note 17: The Place of Fiji in the Pacific,” Report on Indentured Labour, 33. Google Scholar

53. Ibid., 31. Google Scholar

54. Ibid., 63. Google Scholar

55.Peter Stanley, Die in Battle, Do Not Despair: The Indians on Gallipoli, 1915(:Helion, 2015). Google Scholar

56. Report on Indentured Labour, 62. Google Scholar

57.For example,Tinker, The Ordeal of Love, 56–57. Google Scholar

58. Report on Indentured Labour, 64. Google Scholar

59. Ibid., 67. Google Scholar

60.Warwick Anderson, The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia(:Melbourne University Press, 2002). Google Scholar

61.On the construction of racial categories and their historical legacies, seeJohn D. Kelly andMartha Kaplan, Represented Communities: Fiji and World Decolonization(:The University of Chicago Press, 2001). Google Scholar

62. Report on Indentured Labour, 2. Google Scholar

63. Ibid. Google Scholar

64. Ibid., 6. Google Scholar

65. Ibid., 5. Google Scholar

66.“The Association for the Protection of Native Races in Australasia and Polynesia,” first of six typed pages, S55-131-6-1, APNR Papers, Special Collections, University of Sydney Archives, Sydney. On the anti-slavery society in London, see Zoe Laidlaw, “Integrating Metropolitan, Colonial and Imperial History: The Aborigines Select Committee of 1835–1837”inWriting Colonial Histories: Comparative Perspectives, ed.Julie Evans andTracey Banivanua Mar(:RMIT Publishing, 2012), 75–91;James Heartfield, The Aborigines Protection Society: Humanitarian Imperialism in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, South Africa, and the Congo, 1836–1909(:Hurst, 2011). Google Scholar

67.Kevin Grant, A Civilized Savagery: Britain and the New Slaveries in Africa, 1884–1926(:Routledge, 2005). Google Scholar

68. Nationalities and Subject Races: Report of Conference Held in Caxton Hall, Westminster, June 28–30, 1910(:P. S. KindandSon, c1910). Google Scholar

69.Amalia Ribi Forclaz, Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism 1880–1940(:University Press, 2015). Google Scholar

70.“Association for the Protection of Native Races,”no page numbers, Minutes Books, S55-131-1-1, APNR Papers. Google Scholar

71.For example,“Australian Native Races Association,” The Anti-Slavery Reporter, series 3, vol.5, no.1(1913):44–45;“The New Hebrides Problem,” The Anti-Slavery Reporter, series 4, vol.5, no.2(1914):43;“Indentured Labour in Papua,” The Anti-Slavery Reporter, series 5, vol.5, no.3(1915):63–65. Google Scholar

72.APNR Annual Report, 1916, p.4, Minute Books, S55-131-1-2, APNR Papers. Google Scholar

73. Ibid., 2. Google Scholar

75.Fiona Paisley, “An Echo of Black Slavery: Emancipation, Forced Labour and Australia in 1933,” Australian Historical Studies 45, no.1(2014):103–25;Alison Holland, Just Relations: The Story of Mary Bennett’s Crusade for Aboriginal Rights(:UWAP Scholarly, 2015);Russell McGregor, “‘Breed Out the Colour’ or the Importance of Being White,” Australian Historical Studies 33, no.120(2002):286–302. Google Scholar

77.“Coolie Labour,”typed sheets, no date, pp.1–4, “Coolies,” MSS Brit Emp S22 G479, ASAPS Papers. Google Scholar

79. Ibid. Google Scholar

80.Prasad, Tears in Paradise, 123. Google Scholar

81. Ibid., 126. Google Scholar

82.W. Morley, APNR, to Secretary, Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society, 1 August 1918, “Coolies,” MSS Brit Emp S22 G381, Anti-Slavery Papers. Google Scholar

83.APNR to CSR, 22 January 1918, p.3; APNR to CSR, 28 February 1918; APNR to Governor of Fiji, 20 March 1918; Governor of Fiji to APNR, 18 July 1918; all in “Indentured Labour Fiji,” S55-131-7-1, APNR Papers. Google Scholar

84. Report on Indentured Labour, 64. Google Scholar

85.For an analysis of the obstacles faced by the Fijian economy under British rule, seeBruce Knapman, “Capitalism’s Economic Impact on Colonial Fiji, 1874–1939: Development or Underdevelopment?” Journal of Pacific History 20, no.2(1985):66–83. Google Scholar

86.Banivanua Mar, Decolonisation and the Pacific, 74ff. Google Scholar

87.“Note 16: Fijians and Indians,” Report on Indentured Labour, 32. Google Scholar

88.MSS Brit Emp S22 G100 vol. 13, “Fiji,” Anti-Slavery Papers; and, for example, “Slavery in Fiji,”The Anti-Slavery Reporter 16, no.2(1896):91. SeeBanivanua Mar, Violence and Colonial Dialogue, 13; and for Anti-Slavery involvement in the British Caribbean,Kale Madhavi, Fragments of Empire: Capital, Slavery, and Indian Indentured Labor in the British Caribbean(:University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), particularly ch. 4. Google Scholar

89. Report on Indentured Labour, 63. Google Scholar

90.Henry S. L. Polak, The Indians of South Africa: Helots within the Empire, and How They are Treated(1909) referenced in Kelly, The Politics of Virtue, 32 fn 5. Google Scholar

91.Margaret Allen, “Henry Polak: The Cosmopolitan Life of a Jewish Theosophist, Friend of India and Anti-Racist Campaigner,”inHaggis et al, Cosmopolitan Lives, 37–61. See alsoRobert John Holton, “Cosmopolitanism or Cosmopolitanisms? The Universal Races Congress of 1911,” Global Networks 2, no.2(2002):153–70. Google Scholar

92.Pollak to Lord Islington, 3 November 1917, p.3; and second quotation in November 1917, p.3; in “Coolies,” MSS Brit Emp S22 G479, ASAPS Papers. Google Scholar

95.“Indian Colonial Emigration by Mr MK Gandhi,”pp.1–2, “Coolies,” MSS Brit Emp S22 G479, ASAPS Papers. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Paisley, Fiona