Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Arts


This study explores the structure of colonial power at the level of the district in Kelantan under British administration between 1909-1919, and in the eastern highlandsof Papua New Guinea under Australian administration between 1947-1957. It examines the stated aims and actions of district administrators in two examples of what is termed administrative colonialism, a type of colonial power dependent on regulation and governmentality rather than on physical force, and not based on economic exploitation. In doing so it argues that traditional explanations of imperialism and colonialism are inadequate in explaining the structures of power that underpin these two administrations and advances a typology of colonialism based on four ideal types: extractive, commercial, expansionist and administrative.

This study argues that the two cases examined represent administrative colonialism, and uses the annual reports and other records of the regimes to get inside the administrative and bureaucratic mentality. Colonial ‘middle managers’ closed down avenues of resistance through regulation at the same time as they accumulated knowledge and made judgements on which aspects of pre-colonial life would be incompatible with modernity. They eliminated behaviour or actions that would disrupt centralised rule through the creation of structures of colonial power.

Each case is examined during the first decade of colonial rule concentrating on the imperial framework, the imposition of the rule of law, the extension of colonial services, the use of land and the use of labour. The results in Kelantan and the eastern highlands suggest that traditional explanations of imperialism and colonialism need to be reconsidered with greater attention paid to district level analysis, regional variationand the structure of colonial government.

The use of law and regulation, rather than physical violence, to make people obey marks a development in techniques used to control others. Changes introduced by administrative colonialism, such as the imposition of peace and the partial prohibition of traditional customs, have enabled the people of these and other regions to participate in the economic market of global capitalism. The linking of social life to the administrative structure and institutions of the colonial state was an integral part of this process and this study examines the day-to-day functioning of power in two colonial districts in the first ten years of their administrations.