19th Century Photography – The Samoan War 1899

U.S. Marines with naval gun, Upolu, Samoa, 1899, published by Kerry and Co

Tradition in Samoa dictated that leadership of the islands was to be invested in a hereditary chief, but in the 1880s these claims to power were anything but certain. Robert Louis Stevenson,¬†who lived in Samoa during this period of turmoil, commented that Europeans, used to a history of kings and queens, tended to leap to the conclusion that the office of high chief is absolute. In fact the office in Samoa was elective and held in many ways on condition of the holder’s behaviour and attendance to his many obligations. This confusion was to have ongoing ramifications in the late nineteenth century as European powers asserted their claims to land and political power across the three major islands of Samoa. Continue reading

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