General issues: Kingdom 1871-1874, British colony 1874-1970, Independent within the British Commonwealth 1970-1987, Republic 1987-Present
Country name on general issues: Fiji
Special issues: Private issues Fiji Times 1870
Currency: 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1871-1872, 1 Dollar = 100 Cents 1872-1875, 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1875-1969, 1 Dollar = 100 Cents 1969-Present
Population: 120 000 in 1900, 909 000 in 2015
Political history Fiji
Fiji is an island nation located in the southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous population – the i-Taukei – is Melanesian with Polynesian influences. The Fijians were organized in tribes with changing alliances – at times being at war with each other and at times forming confederations. In the mid 19th century one of the tribes gained the upper hand and united most of modern day Fiji in the kingdom of Fiji in 1871. The first European to explore Fiji was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1643. The British explorer James Cook visited the island in 1774. Europeans visited the islands in the early 19th century to trade with the Fijians. In the 1860’s, they started to settle on the main islands in order to develop cotton plantations. Conflicts, among the settlers and between the settlers and the Fijians, led the Fiji king Cakobau to cede sovereignty over the islands to the British and thus Fiji became a British colony in 1874.
The colonial administration implemented indirect rule through the Fijian chiefs and sought to protect the traditional lifestyle of the Fijians. To further economic development, sugar cane plantations were developed, replacing cotton as the main cash crop. The labor force required for the plantations was recruited from British India and eventually Indo-Fijians would come to be the majority of the population. Tensions between the indigenous Fijians and the Indo-Fijians dominate the political landscape until today.
In the 1960’s, Fiji moved towards independence, and independence within the British Commonwealth was granted in 1970. Perceived domination of Indo-Fijians in government affairs led to a coup d’état in 1987. The constitution was revoked and Fiji was declared a republic. In 1990, a new constitution was adopted that strongly favored the position of the indigenous Fijians. From then on, Fiji has been politically unstable with periods of military rule in the 2000’s. As a consequence, Fiji was twice suspended from the British Commonwealth. Relative stability seems to have been achieved in recent years. In 2014, elections were held that were considered fair by international observers, and the suspension from the Commonwealth was lifted.
Economically, sugar cane became the leading cash crop in the 19th and 20th centuries. The indigenous population depended largely on subsistence agriculture. Agriculture is, until today, an important sector in the economy. However, in modern day Fiji, services are the most important sector with tourism as the most important sub-sector. The 1987 events led to substantial emigration of Indo-Fijians. Thus, indigenous Fijians now form the majority of the population at 57% with Indo-Fijians accounting for 38% of the population.
Postal history Fiji
The first stamps were issued in Fiji by the Fiji Times, a news paper company, in 1870 – stamps of a basic design used for inter island mail, all with very high catalog values. The Fiji Times issues were superseded by the first issues of the Fiji government in 1871 – then the kingdom of Fiji. This first issue showed a ‘CR’ monogram for ‘Cakobau Rex'‘King Cakobau’ . The first issues of the colonial administration appeared in 1874 – previous issues with an overprint reading ‘VR’ for ‘Victoria Regina'‘Queen Victoria’ . More provisionals followed until, in 1879, the first definitives were issued in a design identical to the 1871 issue, only now with a ‘VR’ monogram.
The monogram issues were used until the first stamps were issued in designs common to the British colonies in 1903. The first large set of pictorials appeared in 1938, in a style common to the British colonies with themes specific for Fiji. Fiji joined in a number of omnibus issues for the British colonies. Since independence, Fiji issued a blend of stamps with themes of national interest and themes aimed at the thematic collectors market.