ʻATENISI INSTITUTE

An institute for critical education in the South Pacific

A ʻAtenisi picture

Relaxing after class

Aug. 2017 – IC Campbell Enlivens Tongan History

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Prof Campbell with language lecturer Lose Jenner-Helu and student Talita Helu.

Professor Ian Campbell – former Professor of History & Politics at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and formerly of the University of Canterbury – served as visiting professor of Tongan history at ‘Atenisi in August. Among other books, he is the author of two cogent histories of Tonga – Island Kingdom (3rd edit., 2015) and Tonga’s Way to Democracy (2011).

During his three-week stay, Dr Campbell relieved Dr Lorenz Gonschor as instructor of 20th century Tongan history, lecturing on the reigns of Sālote Tupou III, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, and George Tupou V. Campbell also delivered an invitation lecture critiquing Tonga’s ongoing failure to collect, maintain and centrally house historical documents and artifacts.

Prior to his lectures on modern events, Dr Campbell responded to student queries regarding Tonga’s earlier history. In his replies he dismissed several commonly-held assumptions such as:

Tonga was settled by a Lapita group from Fiji: Dr Campbell maintains evidence indicates that Tonga was settled by a Lapita group from further west than Fiji. Archaeological findings rule out a Fijian or Samoan origin.

Tonga ruled Samoa, Fiji, Uvea, and Rotuma in the 15th Century: Dr Campbell concedes there is strong evidence of Tongan settlers on these islands, but no evidence they ‘ruled’ these areas under the authority of the Tu’i Tonga.

From its inception in the 17th century, the Tu’i Kānokupolu lineage was appointed to deputise for the the Tu’i Ha’atakalaua: Dr Campbell argues that from the outset the Tu’i Kānokupolu lineage sought to rise in status and displace the more senior lineages, eventually displacing the Tu’i Tonga by the mid-19th century.