1. European discovery
When the Spanish seafarer Álvaro de Saavedra sighted the islands of what is now the Republic of the Marshall Islands in 1529, they were probably already settled for over 2000 years. In 1788, the British John Marshall, after whom the islands were later named, began mapping the region. From the beginning of the 19th century, the islands were researched and populated.
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From 1860, German merchants started trading in coconut oil and copra from Jaluit (the main island of the western island chain / Ralik Chain) after they had concluded a contract for the economic use of the island with the chief of the local people.
Although the islands were actually under Spanish sovereignty, the Marshall Islands were declared a German protectorate in 1899. In the same year, the German Empire bought the west of the Caroline and Mariana Islands and the island of Palau from the Spanish kingdom for a total of around 18 million gold marks. German trading companies had a lively relationship with all the islands of Micronesia. The deposits and branches of the companies were largely destroyed by a typhoon in 1905.
2. The two world wars and their consequences
When the First World War broke out, the Marshall Islands were occupied by Japanese troops. After the end of the war, they became the official trust area of the League of Nations under Japanese administration.
During the Second World War there was fierce fighting between Japanese and US troops for the islands in the region, over which the USA could prevail. After the end of the war, the islands, together with the Carolines and Palau, became a trust area of the United Nations (successor organization of the League of Nations), this time under US administration.
The United States established several military bases on each atoll. From 1946 to 1958, several nuclear weapons tests were carried out on the Bikini and Eniwetok Atolls, which resulted in considerable radiation exposure. Despite ordered forced relocations, people were injured. In the 1960s, the Kwajalein Atoll was developed into a test area for interceptor and intercontinental ballistic missiles and is still used today.
In the 1970s, compensation payments for the military use and nuclear pollution of the islands were agreed between the Marshall Islands and the United States.
3. Independent state
In 1979 the Marshall Islands received internal autonomy and their own republican constitution. According to AbbreviationFinder, this detached the islands from the UN trust area. Amata Kabua was elected the first head of government of the republic by parliament. In November 1986, the Marshall Islands entered into a free association agreement with the United States, giving them limited sovereignty. The treaty granted the United States, who were also responsible for the defense of the islands, military rights of use on the islands. In return, the Marshall Islands were guaranteed economic and development aid within the contract period.
In 1991 the Republic of the Marshall Islands became a member of the United Nations (UN). In 1992, Amata Kabua was reaffirmed as head of state and government. Among other things, he explained the expansion of tourism and the reduction of public debt as his political goals. In 1993 Kabua entered into an economic contract with the People’s Republic of China for the expansion of the fishing fleet and fish processing industry.
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After the death of Amata Kabua in January 1997, his cousin Imata Kabua took over the office of head of state. He also announced the struggle against rising foreign debt. In January 2000, Kessai H. Note took over the office of Head of State and Government.
To reduce the Republic’s high levels of debt and dependence on US economic aid, the Marshall Islands leadership tried to attract foreign investors into the country through cheap taxes. In December 2000, the island nation, like many other small states, appeared on the so-called “black list” of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) as one of those countries that were accused of money laundering and / or unfair taxation policies. In October 2001, the Marshall Islands’ free association agreement with the United States expired in 1986 and was renegotiated. The Republic is still economically dependent on the United States.
President Litokwa Tomeing was overthrown in October 2009 as part of a vote of no confidence. Jurelang Zedkaia (former spokesman for the parliament) was elected as the new president. Christopher Loeak replaced him in 2012.