European Impact on Tonga and Pacific islands
Published: 2022-10-01 - Updated: 2023-01-04
Author: Australian National University - Contact: anu.edu.au
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Synopsis: Australian National University study reveals Pacific island nations suffered severe depopulation from introduced diseases due to contact with European vessels. This improved understanding of the past has allowed us to show a significant population decline from 50,000-60,000 to 10,000 during a 50-year period on the main island of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. As in many parts of the world, the population of Pacific islands suffered severe declines after contact when Europeans introduced new pathogens.
Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian country and archipelago. The country has 171 islands - of which 45 are inhabited. Its total surface area is about 750 km2 (290 sq mi), scattered over 700,000 km2 (270,000 sq mi) in the southern Pacific Ocean. From 1900 to 1970, Tonga had British protected-state status. The United Kingdom looked after Tonga's foreign affairs under a Treaty of Friendship, but Tonga never relinquished its sovereignty to any foreign power. In 2010, Tonga took a decisive step away from its traditional absolute monarchy and became a fully-functioning constitutional monarchy after legislative reforms paved the way for its first partial representative elections. The 1918 flu pandemic, brought to Tonga by a ship from New Zealand, killed 1,800 Tongans, a mortality rate of about 8%.
Using lidar and Bayesian inference to reconstruct archaeological populations in the Kingdom of Tonga.
Pacific island nations suffered severe depopulation from introduced diseases due to contact with European vessels, a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) shows.
The research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, indicates population declines were a lot larger than previously thought. According to the study, the main island of Tonga had a population decline of between 70-86 per cent once Europeans made contact.
Researchers from the ANU School of Culture, History & Language, PhD candidate Phillip Parton and ARC Future Fellow Professor Geoffrey Clark, found there were between 100,000-120,000 people in Tonga prior to European contact.
"I and my co-author used aerial laser scanning data to map residences on the main island of Tonga and then used archaeological data I collected as part of my PhD to estimate the population," Mr Parton said.
"This improved understanding of the past has allowed us to show a significant population decline from 50,000-60,000 to 10,000 during a 50-year period on the main island of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga."
"Because this number is so much larger than anything anyone had previously considered, I used shipping and missionary data to check my estimates and found they were plausible."
"Obviously, this shows a big reassessment of the impact of globalisation in the 19th century."
"As in many parts of the world, the population of Pacific islands suffered severe declines after contact when Europeans introduced new pathogens."
This peer reviewed article relating to our Anthropology and Disability section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "European Impact on Tonga and Pacific islands" was originally written by Australian National University, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2022-10-01 (Updated: 2023-01-04). Should you require further information or clarification, Australian National University can be contacted at anu.edu.au. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.
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