The substantial capital stock accumulated over the colonial period largely became a legacy for the Pitcairn descendants of the Bounty mutineers, who were resettled on Norfolk in 1856. They created a subsistence-based economy which remained essentially unchanged until externally introduced structural and institutional changes around the turn of the century forged much closer links with the international economy. The upshot was a phase of highly unstable export-oriented growth which was eventually curtailed by World War II. The immediate post-war period was one of erratic economic change and declining population, with the economy lacking any strong and sustained growth stimulus until tourism assumed this role in the early 1960s. Subsequent expansion, strengthened temporarily by the use of the Island as a tax haven, transformed Norfolk into a capital-exporting, developed mini-economy displaying a high degree of affluence in per capita terms. Admittedly, this economy has also displayed instability, inequality and continued reliance on Australian financial support; and it faces the threat of environmental constraints impeding future growth.

The insightful book by Emeritus Professor Malcolm Treadgold explaining these dynamics is available under open access conditions from the Australian National University: