This essay focuses on the cultural, political, and economic history of five Pacific island countries or dependencies in Melanesia – Papua New Guinea, West Papua (Indonesia), the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia (France). I wrote these lectures for two expedition cruises operated by Stanford Travel/Study and Zegrahm Expeditions – The Circumnavigation of New Guinea (March-April 2006) and New Zealand to New Guinea (January-February 2010).

          I begin by comparing the Papuans in New Guinea and the Aborigines in Australia – their differing settlement patterns, subsistence strategies, and cultural differences. I next discuss Dutch, German, and Australian rule in New Guinea – motivation, resource exploitation, and decolonization. I continue with independent Papua New Guinea – economic performance, mining conflicts, and constraints on sustainable development. I then contrast New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands – European discovery, colonial rule, and development since 1980. I close by analyzing why Japan precipitated World War II in the Pacific and how the Allies stemmed Japan’s advance and won the war. I append a time line, a bibliography, and a description of the sites that I visited in Melanesia. 

Madang, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River Basin, Wewak, East Sepik Province, Kopar, Baluan Island, Admiralty Islands, Bondrou Island, Nauna Island, Tingwon Island, New Ireland, Bismarck Archipelago, Tsoi Bolo Island, Rabaul, New Britain, Gawa Island, Marshall Bennett Islands, Kiriwina Island, Trobriand Islands, Dobu Island, D’Entrecasteaux Islands, Fergusson Island, Coral Sea, Bonaruwa, Suau Islands, Port Moresby, Budi Budi, Budoya, Dobu, Bonaruwa, Laughlan Islands in the Solomon Sea, Guadalcanal, Kennedy, and Ghizo Islands, Utupua and Owarafa Islands, Tikopia Island,Port Vila and Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, Walpole Island, New Caledonia,