Archaeological finds indicate that the islands of
Vanuatus were first settled around 3,000 years ago.
Presumably, these were dark-skinned tribes that
originally came from New Guinea.
The first European to discover the islands in 1606
was Pedro Fern¨˘ndez de Quir¨®s, who sailed under the
Spanish flag. The islands were only explored in detail
in 1768 by the Frenchman Louis Antoine de Bougainville.
The English navigator James Cook mapped the islands on
his second South Sea voyage (1772-75) and gave them the
name "New Hebrides", which was used until 1980.
According to AbbreviationFinder, European merchants and missionaries settled on the
islands in the first half of the 19th century. Large
areas have been cleared to extract the valuable
sandalwood. The native population was decimated from an
original half a million to around 40,000 people within
100 years: many of them died from introduced diseases,
around 60,000 were deported to the plantations in
Australia and the Fiji Islands as forced laborers.
In the second half of the 19th century, numerous
settlers from Great Britain and France settled on the
islands. In order to prevent Australian territorial
claims, the two colonial powers agreed on common
administration after years of struggle for supremacy. In
1906 the "New Hebrides" or "Nouvelles H¨¦brides" became a
condominium, ie an area that was under the rule of
several states. Both powers each built their own legal
and educational systems and introduced their language as
the official language.
During the Second World War, the New Hebrides were
spared from hostilities, the American military bases
established here only served as supplies for the armed
forces. After the war ended, France and Great Britain
took over the administration of the islands again.
In the 1960s, the first resistance groups against the
colonial powers formed on the islands. The demand for
independence was raised by parties such as "Na-Griamel"
on Espiritu Santo under the leadership of Jimmy Stevens
and the "National Party of the New Hebrides" (later
"Vanuaaku Pati" / VP) under Father Walter Hayde Lini.
In 1974 the islands were granted limited internal
self-government and the first free elections were held a
year later. In 1977 the New Hebrides received full
internal autonomy. The city of Port Vila on Efat¨¦ served
as the seat of government. Attempts at secession on the
islands of Espiritu Santo and Tanna were suppressed.
On July 30, 1980, the New Hebrides became independent
under the name Vanuatu (which means "forever our
country" in Bislama) as a parliamentary republic within
the British Commonwealth of Nations. One year after the
state was founded, Vanuatu became a member of the United
Nations. Ati George Sokomanu was elected as the first
president with predominantly representative functions,
Walter Lini (until 1991) became the first prime minister
and thus head of state. He represented the so-called
"Melanesian socialism". Together with Fiji, Papua New
Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu founded the
"Melanesian Spearhead Group" in 1993 to improve trade
relations between the states. In terms of domestic
politics, the young democracy has been characterized by
turmoil since the end of Lini's reign, and governments
change frequently. Prime Minister has been Joe Natuman
since May 2014, who has held several ministerial posts
under previous governments.