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Caldoche is the name given to European inhabitants of the French overseas collectivity of New Caledonia, mostly native-born French settlers. The term "caldoche" has a pejorative connotation[citation needed]. The formal name to refer to this particular population is Calédoniens, short for the very formal Néo-Calédoniens, but this self-appellation technically includes all inhabitants of the New Caledonian archipelago, not just the Caldoche. Another "white" demographic element (although they may well be French people of different ethnic backgrounds) in the territory is expatriates from metropolitan France who live there temporarily as civil servants. Caldoches are keen to differentiate themselves from these inhabitants,[citation needed][dubious ] underlining their position as the permanent locals, referring to them as métros (short for métropolitains) or as Zoreilles (informally zozos) in local slang.

Arrivée flamme.JPG
Caldoche "bushmen" cavaliers carrying the 2011 Pacific Games flame in Bourail
Total population
Regions with significant populations
New Caledonia (27.1% of total population), mainly in Noumea
Mainly Roman Catholicism,
Related ethnic groups
French people

New Caledonia was used as a penal colony from 1854 to 1922 by France. From this period and on, many Europeans (particularly of French and, to some extent, German origin) settled in the territory and they intermingled with Asian and Polynesian settlers. Code de l'indigénat, introduced in 1887, provided the free settler population with an advantageous status over the indigenous Melanesian peoples, known collectively as Kanak. Caldoches settled and gained property on the dry west coast of the main island Grande Terre where the capital Nouméa is also located, pushing the Kanaks onto small reservations in the north and east. With the superior position, they constituted the ruling class of the colony and they were the ones who widened the usage of the word Canaque as a pejorative.

Caldoche culture is often compared to cultures of rural Australians and Afrikaners.[according to whom?][citation needed] They are, on the political level, typical loyalists (in the context of New Caledonia, they oppose independence from France). They were seen as supporters of the strongly Caldoche Rally for Caledonia in the Republic (Rally for Caledonia inside the Republic) until 2004, when their support shifted considerably towards Avenir ensemble ("Future Together"), which has the vision of a multiracial New Caledonia within the framework of the French Republic.



There are many theories on the origin of the term "Caldoche". The most widespread story, as told by the collective lexicon 1001 Caledonian Words, attributes the term to local journalist and polemicist Jacqueline Schmidt, who participated actively towards the end of the 1960s in the debate concerning the Billotte laws (in particular the first law, which transferred mining responsibilities in New Caledonia to the state[1]), and signed her articles with the pseudonym "Caldoche", a portmanteau of the prefix "Cald-", referring to her strong feeling of belonging to New Caledonia, where her family settled almost 100 years earlier, and the suffix "-oche", referring to the pejorative term "dirty Boche", having been called that by some of her schoolfriends' parents due to her German heritage (the Schmidts form part of an important German community from the Rhineland, having fled Germany to escape Prussian domination in the 1860s[2]). The owner of the newspaper D1TO, Gerald Rousseau, found the name amusing, and popularised it.[3]

Origins of the Caldoche peopleEdit

Free colonistsEdit

Many colonists came to New Caledonia either through personal initiative or were supported by government programmes and policies to populate New Caledonia. Examples of different waves of settlement include the following:

  • 'Paddon' colonists, named after the English merchant James Paddon. In exchange for selling his own land on Île Nou to the French state in 1857 to become part of the infrastructure of the penal colony there, he was given 4000 hectares of farmland in the Karikouié and Katiramona river basins in Païta, on condition that they be populated with at least 22 'males of the white race' together with their families. In the end he received 18 families, including some of Paddon's own nephews who inherited the land after Paddon's death, with the first 5 families, mostly of German origin, arriving in 1859. These settlers mostly cultivated vegetables, with sugarcane cultivation having been abandoned early on. However, difficult conditions forced many of the settlers to move either to the capital or to Australia.[4] · [5] · [6]
  • 'Cheval' colonists, named after the Norman restorator Timothée Cheval, who sought his fortune in New Caledonia in the 1860s and received 1800 hectares by a decree from the governor, on condition that he bring 6 to 8 European settlers, 100 horned livestock, 16 mares and one stallion. These settlers arrived on La Gazelle from Australia in 1862, followed by Cheval's own brother Hippolyte in 1866. As with the Paddon colonists, many subsequently resettled in Nouméa or outside New Caledonia[7].
  • Bourbonnais colonists, made up of Reunionese Creoles who settled in New Caledonia between 1864 and 1880 when the Mascarene Islands entered a period of economic crisis linked with droughts and diseases that attacked the islands' sugar cane crops. Many of these families brought Malbar and Cafre indentured labourers with them and settled on 10,000 hectares of land, used for sugar cane plantation, scattered around the island particularly in Nakety, Canala and Houaïlou on the East coast and Dumbéa, La Foa, La Ouaménie and Koné on the West coast [8]. These plantations were initially a success, and by 1875 at least 454 Reunionese people had arrived to the island. However, locust invasions and the Kanak revolt of 1878 put an end to sugar cane cultivation on the island, and so many of the Reunionese settlers either emigrated back to Réunion or to Metropolitan France or found other careers in the government administration. By 1884 only 173 Reunionese settlers remained [9].

As well as these planned colonisations projects, many other settlers arrived through their own initiative, for various reasons including poverty at home (such as in the case of Irish and Italian settlers, as well as peasants from mountainous areas of France which were hit hard by the rural crisis of the 19th century), the possibility of acquiring wealth, politics (eg. republican militants who fled Metropolitan France during the 1851 Coup, or people from Germany and Alsace who refused to live under Prussian rule), or simply overstaying their posts in the civil service or the military.

Penal colonistsEdit

The first 250 prisoners arrived in Port-de-France on board the ship L'Iphigénie. Alain Saussol estimates that 75 different convoys brought around 21,630 prisoners to the penal colony between 1864 and 1897.[9] By 1877, there were 11,110 penal colonists present in New Caledonia, making up around two-thirds of the European population at the time. The last prison colonies were closed in 1922 and 1931.[10]

The prisoner population could be divided into roughly 3 groups. The 'transported' were convicts sentenced under common law, ranging from 8 years up to life, for crimes ranging from physical and sexual assault to murder. These were mostly taken to the prison at Île Nou and worked on the construction of roads and buildings in the colony. Political prisoners, or the 'deported', made up the second group. Many of these participated in the Paris Commune of 1871, 4250 of whom were sent either to Île des Pins or Ducos, including Louise Michel and Henri Rochefort. After they were all granted amnesty in 1880, less than 40 families decided to stay in New Caledonia. Another group of 'deporteds' were participants in the Mokrani Revolt of 1871-72 in Algeria, the majority of whom decided to stay in New Caledonia following the granting of amnesty in 1895 and from whom the majority of Algerian New Caledonians in Bourail are descended. Recidivists, or the 'relegated', made up the third group, 3757 of whom were sent from 1885 onwards to New Caledonia, particularly to Île des Pins, Prony or Boulouparis. The 'transported' and 'relegated' stopped being brought to New Caledonia in 1897.

Following being condemned to forced labour, the prisoners had to 'atone' for their crimes by working on penitentiary farms, and once freed were given a portion of the land. Overall around 1300 pieces of land, totalling around 260,000 hectares largely taken from the indigenous Kanak people, were awarded to freed prisoners, particularly around Bourail, La Foa-Farino, Ouégoa and Pouembout, where many of the descendants of the prisoner population remain to this day.

Geographical originsEdit

The vast majority of Caldoche people are of French origin. Notable French immigration waves include those who fled Alsace and Lorraine following the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Creole people from Réunion who fled during the sugar crisis of the 1860s and 1870s, merchants and ship owners from Bordeaux and Nantes drawn to the island at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries by economic opportunities related to the discovery of nickel reserves, and colonists from the Nord and Picardy regions. Other French people who settled the island included sailors and adventurers from Normandy and Brittany, as well as settlers from the poorest regions of France in what is now the Empty Diagonal.

However, as previously mentioned, there were also a large number of Paddon and Cheval colonists of British and Irish origin (many of the latter having fled Ireland during the Potato Famine) who came to the island via Australia, as well as a sizeable number of Italians, Germans (particularly from the Rhineland), Belgians, Swiss, Spaniards, Croatians and Poles. A significant number of non-Europeans are also grouped under the Caldoche people despite often being of mixed race origin, notably those from Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, India (via Réunion) and Algeria (the latter particularly concentrated around Bourail)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Annexe 4 : Les Lois Billotte, site du vice-rectorat" (PDF). 
  2. ^ P. O'REILLY, Calédoniens : Répertoire bio-bibliographique de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, éd. Société des Océanistes, n°3, Paris, 1953, p.235-236
  3. ^ Article « Caldoche », Dico de la Brousse en Folie
  4. ^ Biographie de James Paddon, sur le site de l'« Association Témoignage d'un Passé »
  5. ^ [ Présentation des colons Paddon, Ibid.
  6. ^ S. FORMIS, « La Saga Martin », Sagas calédoniennes : 50 grandes familles, Tome II, éd. Dimanche Matin, Nouméa, 2000, p.130-133
  7. ^ P. O'REILLY, Calédoniens, 1853
  8. ^ L'Usine sucrière de La Ouaménie sur le site de la Province Sud Archived 2009-07-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ a b Populations, ASTER du Caillou, d'après les chiffres avancés par J.C. ROUX dans le bulletin de la SEHNC n° 11, année 1976 Archived 2009-12-30 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ C. DEBIEN-VANMAÏ. "Le Rôle des bagnards dans la colonisation en Nouvelle-Calédonie (1854-1931)" (PDF). site du Vice-Rectorat de Nouvelle-Calédonie. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-11-19. 

External linksEdit