Vanuatu History

Vanuatu History

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.

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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.

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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.

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