Before Alvaro de Mendaña de Neyra discovered part of the atolls of today’s Tuvalu at the end of the 16th century, the islands had already been colonized by Polynesians, Samoans and seafarers from Tonga. The remaining atolls were only discovered by the English in the 19th century. English merchants settled on the islands in 1820 and traded in coconuts, later in slaves. A mission station was built on Funafuti in 1865. The nine atolls were named Ellice Islands (after a British MP), in 1896 they were combined with the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) to the north to form the “Gilbert and Ellice Islands Protectorate” and in 1915 British crown colony.
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Second World War
During the Second World War, the Japanese threatened to take over the Ellice Islands after the Gilbert Islands. This was prevented by American military bases built on three of the atolls from 1940 onwards. From the islands of what is now Tuvalu, the Gilbert Islands were liberated from the Japanese occupation by Australian and American troops in 1943.
According to AbbreviationFinder, Great Britain gradually granted the crown colony internal self-government in the 1960s; rivalries between the two island groups of Gilbert and Ellice Islands resulted from the reforms that had been initiated. In 1974 90% of Tuvalu’s population spoke out for an independent and separate status of their archipelago, two years later the separation took place. In 1977 a parliament with 12 deputies was elected for the first time. On October 1, 1978 (today’s National Day), the Ellice Islands became independent as Tuvalu (which means “eight hold together”) under the British Commonwealth.
In 1987, the “Tuvalu Trust Fund” was founded by Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain in order to provide the state, which is dependent on international development aid, with a regular source of income. Tuvalu has only limited economic development opportunities due to its small land mass, nutrient-poor soils and a lack of raw materials.
In 2000 Tuvalu was accepted as the 189th member of the United Nations (UN).
A major problem at the beginning of the new millennium is the sharp increase in the population and the risk of flooding the national territory due to the rising sea level (estimates assume that the maximum area of three meters – but usually only two meters – protruding from the water is the Tuvalus Part will be flooded by the middle of this century). The salinization of drinking water is also a problem that arises from this.
At the beginning of the new century the country went through a period of political instability, due to a continuous alternation at the head of the government: first the sudden death of I. Ionatana (December 2000), who had replaced the resigning B. Paeniu (apr. 1999), then the interim by L. Tuilimu, in turn replaced in February 2001 by F. Luka. Discouraged by Parliament in December 2001, the latter gave way to K. Talake. The general elections of July 2002 they recorded the success of S. Sopoanga, formerly Minister of Finance; as soon as he took office, the new prime minister announced his intentions to hold a referendum to change the institutional structure of the country and establish a republic (a proposal already rejected by Parliament in 1992). In October 2004 a new crisis saw Sopoanga in the minority in the Parliament, who replaced him with M. Toafa.
The general elections held in August 2006 significantly changed the political scene, as no ministers were re-elected (only 7 out of 15 MPs were confirmed); a few days before the vote, A. Ielemia, in opposition during the previous government, was appointed prime minister. In February 2000 Tuvalu became a member of the UN.