New Hebrides
New Hebrides was the colonial name for an island group in the South Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 that now forms the nation of Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

. The New Hebrides were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century shortly after Captain James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

 visited the islands. The two countries eventually signed an agreement making the islands an Anglo-French condominium
Condominium (international law)
In international law, a condominium is a political territory in or over which two or more sovereign powers formally agree to share equally dominium and exercise their rights jointly, without dividing it up into 'national' zones.Although a condominium has always been...

, which lasted from 1906 until 1980, when the New Hebrides gained their independence as Vanuatu.

The Condominium divided the New Hebrides into two separate communities — one Anglophone
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and one Francophone
The adjective francophone means French-speaking, typically as primary language, whether referring to individuals, groups, or places. Often, the word is used as a noun to describe a natively French-speaking person....

. This divide continues even after independence, with schools either teaching in one language or the other, and between different political parties.

Politics and Economy

The New Hebrides were a unique form of colonial territory in which sovereignty was shared by two great powers – Britain and France – instead of exercised by just one. Under the Condominium there were three separate governments – one French, one British, and one joint administration that was partially elected after 1975.

The French and British governments were called residencies, each headed by a resident appointed by the metropolitan government. The residency structure emphasized dualism to the point of near absurdity – both consisted of an equal number of French and British representatives, bureaucrats and administrators. Every member of one residency always had an exact mirror opposite number on the other side he could consult with. The symmetry between the two residencies was almost perfect.

The joint government consisted of both local and European officials. It had jurisdiction over the postal service, public radio station, public works, infrastructure, and censuses, among other things. The two main cities of Santo and Port Vila also had city councils, but these did not have a great deal of authority.

Local people could choose whether to be tried under the British common law or the French civil law. Visitors could choose which immigration rules to enter under. Nationals of one country could set up corporations under the laws of the other. In addition to these two legal systems, a third Native Court existed to handle cases involving Melanesian customary law. Oddly, the presiding judge of the Native Court was appointed by the King of Spain, not by the British or the French.

There were two prison systems to complement the two court systems. The police force was technically unified but consisted of two chiefs and two equal groups of officers wearing two different uniforms. Each group alternated duties and assignments.

Language was a serious barrier to the operation of this naturally inefficient system, as all documents had to be translated once to be understood by one side, then the response translated again to be understood by the other, though Bislama creole represented an informal bridge between the British and the French camps.

See also

  • Coconut War
    Coconut War
    The Coconut War was a brief clash between Papua New Guinean soldiers and rebels in Espiritu Santo shortly before and after the independence of the Republic of Vanuatu was declared on 30 July 1980.- Background :...

  • French colonial empire
    French colonial empire
    The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

  • List of French possessions and colonies

See also

  • List of colonial heads of Vanuatu (New Hebrides)
  • Postage stamps and postal history of the New Hebrides
    Postage stamps and postal history of the New Hebrides
    This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Vanuatu, formerly known as the New Hebrides, an island group in the South Pacific. Between 1906 and 1980, the islands were an Anglo-French Condominium....

  • History of Vanuatu
    History of Vanuatu
    The history of Vanuatu begins obscurely. The commonly held theory of Vanuatu's prehistory from archaeological evidence supports that peoples speaking Austronesian languages first came to the islands some 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. Pottery fragments have been found dating back to 1300 B.C...

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