General issues: French colony 1860-1946, French overseas territory 1946-1999, French collectivity sui generis 1999-Present
Country name on general issues: Nle Caledonie, N.C.E., Nlle Caledonie et Dépendances, Nouvelle Caledonie
Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes 1860-Present
Population: 23 000 in 1900, 271 000 in 2015
Political history New Caledonia
New Caledonia is an island nation located in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The indigenous population are the Kanak, a Melanesian people. The first European to sight the islands was the British explorer James Cook who named the islands in 1774. In the next century and a half contacts were sporadic and mainly focused on the – forced – recruitment of labor for plantations in Fiji and Queensland, Australia. The French established themselves on the main island of Grande Terre in 1853, proclaiming the French colony of New Caledonia. Initially administered as part of French Oceania – now French Polynesia – New Caledonia became a colony in its own right in 1860. In subsequent years, several groups of outlying islands were annexed and attached to New Caledonia as dependencies – the main group being the Îsles de Loyauté annexed in 1864. The islands of Wallis & Futuna in the central Pacific Ocean were administered from New Caledonia between 1887 and 1961.
From 1854 until 1897, the French used New Caledonia as a penal colony. Nickel was found in 1864 – mining started in 1876. Nickel would become the main economic resource – New Caledonia has 25% of the world’s nickel reserves. Agriculture would be little developed due to the lack of arable soil – what agriculture existed was subsistence agriculture by the indigenous Kanak.
During WWII, shortly after the establishment of the Vichy regime loyal to Germany in metropolitan France, New Caledonia joined the Free FrenchMovement that, during WWII, continued the fight against Germany after Germany had occupied France. led by Charles de Gaulle, ousting the governor loyal to the Vichy regimeThe regime in France that, during WWII, collaborated with the Germans even though Germany had occupied France.. Nouméa – the capital – became the headquarters of the United States Army and Navy in the southern Pacific Ocean. In 1946 – when the French Empire was restructured – New Caledonia became a French overseas territory. In the 1980’s tensions between factions in the debate about independence increased. A 1988 agreement defined a period of transition with increased self government. A further agreement, in 1998, made New Caledonia a French collectivity sui generis in 1999 – a special French collectivity. Self government was increased and it was agreed that a referendum on full independence would be held in 2018 at the latest.
Economically, nickel has made New Caledonia a wealthy country – in terms of per capita GDP it ranks 41st out of 230 countries in the world, higher, for example, than New Zealand. The largest population group are the indigenous Kanak who account for 40% of the population. People of European descent account for 29% of the population. The remaining 31% are a diverse mix of people of Pacific and Asian descent and people of mixed descent.
Postal history New Caledonia
The first stamps were issued for New Caledonia in 1860 – a local issue showing the portrait of Emperor Napoleon III. This first issue was used until 1862 and valid for domestic mail only – international mail required additional franking with stamps from New South Wales – canceled in Sydney. Between 1862 and 1881, the general issues for the French colonies were used. Stamps for specific use in New Caledonia were again issued in 1881 – issues for the French colonies overprinted ‘NCE’ and a new face value. The first definitives were issued in 1893 – a set of the common ‘Navigation & Commerce’ design inscribed ‘Nlle Caledonie et Dépendances’. The dependencies to first open post offices were the Îsles de Loyauté and the Îsles des Pins. Stamps of New Caledonia were used in the New Hebrides until 1908 and in Wallis & Futuna until in 1920.
During WWII, in 1941, stamps were issued for use in New Caledonia by the Vichy regime in France. As these were never put to use in New Caledonia, only mint issues are listed in the catalogs. Shortly after, stamps were issued in the name of the Free French – overprints on earlier issues, the overprint reading ‘France Libre’. Later in 1941 definitives were issued inscribed ‘France Libre’.
In the modern era, New Caledonia issued a blend of stamps with themes of local interest and themes aimed at the thematic collectors market.