The Growth and Collapse of Pacific Island Societies

In their accounts of exploration, early European voyagers in the Pacific frequently described the teeming populations they encountered on island after island. Yet missionary censuses and later nineteenth-century records often indicate much smaller populations on Pacific Islands, leading many scholars to debunk the explorers’ figures as romantic exaggerations. Recently, the debate over the indigenous populations of the Pacific has intensified, and The Growth and Collapse of Pacific Island Societies: Archaeological and Demographic Perspectives, edited by Patrick V. Kirch and Jean-Louis Rallu, addresses the problem from new perspectives.

Were there major population collapses on Pacific Islands following first contact with the West? If so, what were the actual population numbers for islands such as Hawai‘i, Tahiti, or New Caledonia? Is it possible to develop new methods for tracking the long-term histories of island populations? These and related questions are at the heart of this new book, which draws together cutting-edge research by archaeologists, ethnographers, and demographers.

May 2007 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3134-9 / $60.00 (CLOTH)