Frances Steel
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Sitima days in Suva
Wharf labourers and the colonial port
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By the early years of the twentieth century, Suva was not simply the European capital, but also a growing multiracial and multicultural metropole in the western Pacific. Suva's 'mobile men' were situated differently within a racialised hierarchy constructed in the context of colonial labour relations. By 1913 Suva was only able to accommodate one steamer at a time and the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand (USSCo.) contemplated landing cargo in the street. The various European USSCo. branch staff and other white residents offered only one series of perspectives on the nature of business and social relationships in the colonial port. The concerns about the regulation of labour, race and space were evidenced in other colonial ports. The savages on the shoreline have become peaceable, non-threatening wharf labourers through the transformative reach of imperial transport, communication and trading networks.

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Oceania under steam

Sea transport and the cultures of colonialism, c.1870–1914


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