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In search of a 'New heaven, new earth': A socio-economic history of the Cocos-Keeling Islands, 1827 - 1978

Brockman, Rosemary (1978) In search of a 'New heaven, new earth': A socio-economic history of the Cocos-Keeling Islands, 1827 - 1978. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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THE settlement of Cocos in 1827 by J. Clunies Ross was an event typical of its time, for the pattern of British colonization in Asia in the age before Victoria comprised little more than a heterogeneous commercial network of naval bases, trading posts, entrepots and penal settlements. Cocos is remarkable, however, for the manner in which the Clunies Ross Estate, with its Cocos-Malay community, has, survived into the present under the domination of one family, with only nominal administrative oversight by Britain and, from 1955, by Australia.

In this thesis an attempt is made to identify the factors which appear to have influenced the social and economic development of Cocos and, in particular, to determine those factors which enabled the Ross family to maintain its dynastic rule and its inordinate influence over the Cocos community.

The thesis examines the economic origins of the Cocos community; first as a slave - then convict - and, finally a coolie-based community, and demonstrates the Rosses' dependence on this workforce as a critical factor of production in a cash crop economy. The manner in which both the islands' laws, and the Rosses' notion of sovereignty, were permitted to evolve, provides a case study in indifference to the plight of a community by the British colonial administration.

The thesis concludes that the absence of an indigenous culture on the island, its relative isolation, and the small, yet viable size of the Ross enterprise, led to the unimpeded development of the family's interests and influence over the islanders.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Asian Studies
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Warren, James
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