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Worlds collide

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Here you can explore some of the explosive encounters that occurred between Pacific peoples and early European settlers. Cultural misunderstanding was at the root of many conflicts. Other clashes were sparked by dubious colonial activities and the undermining of indigenous authority. However, not all locals sided against the newcomers – some supported them, often to further their particular interests.

The introduction of firearms dramatically upped the stakes of war, whether against Europeans or other indigenous groups. Island peoples quickly incorporated muskets into indigenous warfare. Guns didn't cause the intertribal conflicts but did make them more destructive, resulting in huge casualties.

But responses to colonisation were not always violent. New religious movements also formed, often inspired by Christianity. Some Pacific peoples led peaceful protests or focused their energy on strengthening past networks and customs. Others entered mainstream politics.