Concept: Blackbirding


Part of the problem with any discussion of the indentured labour trade is semantic: different interest groups place different connotations on terms used to describe the recruiting process, most notably 'blackbirding'. During the labour trade, 'blackbirder' and 'blackbirding' were commonly used to describe recruiters and recruiting without the pejorative overtones it has taken on since. Today, Islanders, academic-fringe writers and the general public use 'blackbirding' to mean any form of transporting Melanesian labourers externally to colonies, including voluntary enlistment. The term is not used to describe what was virtually the same labour recruiting process within the Solomons (although that was almost entirely voluntary). The term is derived from the African slave trade and carries strong connotations of illegality, and when used today it implies shady, if not illegal activity. Although a wonderfully descriptive word, blackbirding has become too imprecise and loaded to be applied in any accurate manner. See also Labour on Overseas Plantations, and Labour on Protectorate Plantations.

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