A Short History of Vanuatu

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Vanuatu’s history dates back to 4,000 years ago.  The islands were believed to be inhabited by Austronesian speaking settlers.  Some archaeological findings like pottery fragments from 1300 to 1100 B.C. were found.  Very few written accounts have been found relating to Vanuatu before the 1600s.  Vanuatu archipelago was reportedly sighted by the Portuguese explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queiros in 1606 while he was working for the Spanish crown.  His team came to the island of Espiritu Santo, which is the largest island in Vanuatu.  The Europeans have not visited the group of islands until 1768.  That time, it was the French man Louis Antoine de Bouganville who visited the island bringing with him the French influence in the country.  Sometime later in 1774, the famed British navigator Captain James Cook landed on the islands and coined the name New Hebrides for the islands, which was adopted until Vanuatu got its independence in 1980.

The 1800s brought a different atmosphere into Vanuatu.  A trader name Peter Dillon discovered Sandalwood on the island of Erromango in 1825.  An influx of immigrants rushed in until 1830.  Clashes between immigrants and Polynesian workers stopped the rush of immigrants into the country.  In the 1860s, about half of the adult male population of Vanuatu migrated to Australia, Fiji, New Spain, and the Samana Islands to work in plantations.

In the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries entered the country.  It was during that time the British rule over the country was toppled by the French.  Soon, France and the British Kingdom agreed to jointly lord over the islands and established the British-French Condominium, which is a very unique form of government that unites separate governmental systems of the French and British into a single court.

Americans arrived during World War II invoking nationalism in the hearts of the islanders.  The form of government had been challenged and in the 1970s, the first political party was established, the New Hebrides National Party and in 1980 which pushed for the country’s independence.  Independence became a reality in 1980 and the Republic of Vanuatu was created.

Political instability has plagued the nation up to now ever since the country gained independence.   

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