This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to bring the stories and histories of an unfamiliar group of French-speaking islands into the living rooms and libraries of the English-speaking world through a selection of founding texts presented for the first time in English. The book opens its cultural history of New Caledonia with transcriptions and translations of the most widely circulating texts of Kanak oral tradition. Subsequent accounts of early eighteenth-century European exploration, the era of annexation, the penal colony, and then nineteenth-century settlement are followed by representative extracts from the modern period, or the “new literature.” These are the texts emerging from the dramatic political events in the contemporary period and the 1988 Matignon and 1998 Nouméa Agreements with France that have opened up the option of independence in 2014 by majority vote. An overview of the four parts of the book is also presented.
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