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The protectorate was generally established on this area (but not on these islands) by the Pacific Islands Protection Act of 1857, and then in 1877 for the Western Pacific Territories, but the protectorate on the Gilbert group and on the Ellice group was formal and effective only from 1892, and a High Commissioner was appointed in 1893. The islands became a Crown Colony on 12 January 1916. The colony's capital was mainly on Banaba Island (Ocean Island) and after World War II on Tarawa, first in Betio island then near Bairiki.
The sixteen islands of the Gilberts, declared a protectorate by Captain Davis, R. N. of HMS Royalist between 27 May and 17 June 1892, were discovered intermittently from perhaps as early as 1537 up to 1826. The Ellice Islands were declared a protectorate by Captain Gibson, R. N. of HMS Curaçao between 9th and 16 October of the same year; Banaba (or Ocean Island) was included within the protectorate in 1900 and then in the colony in 1916. In the same year, Fanning Island and Washington Island were included in it together with the islands of the Tokelau or Union Islands; Christmas Island was included in 1919 but was contested by the USA. The Tokelaus were detached in 1925 (but not formally until just after WWII); the Phoenix Islands were added in 1937 and the five islands of the Central and Southern Line Islands were added in 1972.
In 1974, ethnic differences within the colony caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands (later Kiribati). The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu.
The Ellice Islands were named after Edward Ellice, a British politician and merchant, by Captain Arent de Peyster, who sighted the islands in 1819 sailing on the ship Rebecca. Ellice owned the cargo of the ship.
Sir Arthur Grimble: "A Pattern of Islands". A sympathetic and often amusing account by a British official sent to the islands in his early 20's who stayed to become Commissioner. Not in print but available second hand. US title: "We Chose the Islands"