Galapagos Islands

History of the Pacific Islands

History of the Pacific Islands covers the history of the islands in the Pacific Ocean.



The written history of Australia began when Dutch explorers first sighted the country in the 17th century. The interpretation of the history of Australia is currently a matter of some contention, particularly regarding the British settlement and early treatment of Indigenous Australians.


Hawaiian history is inextricably tied into a larger Polynesian phenomenon. Hawaii is the apex of the Polynesian Triangle, a region of the Pacific Ocean anchored by three island groups: Hawaii, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and Aotearoa (New Zealand). The many island cultures within the Polynesian Triangle share similar languages derived from a proto-Malayo-Polynesian language used in Southeast Asia 5,000 years ago. Polynesians also share cultural traditions, such as religion, social organization, myths, and material culture. Anthropologists believe that all Polynesians have descended from a South Pacific proto-culture created by an Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) people that had migrated from Southeast Asia. The seven main Polynesian cultures are Aotearoa, Hawaii, Rapa Nui, Marquesas, Sāmoa, Tahiti, and Tonga

The early settlement history of Hawaii is still not completely resolved. Some believe that the first Polynesians arrived in Hawaii in the 3rd century from the Marquesas and were followed by Tahitian settlers in 1300 AD who conquered the original inhabitants. Others believe that there was only a single, extended period of settlement.


In the history of Indonesia, Austronesian people, who form the majority of the modern population, migrated to South East Asia from Taiwan. They arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE, and confined the native Melanesian peoples to the far eastern regions as they expanded. Dong Son culture spread to Indonesia bringing with it techniques of wet-field rice cultivation, ritual buffalo sacrifice, bronze casting, megalithic practises, and ikat weaving methods. Ideal agricultural conditions, and the mastering of wet-field rice cultivation as early as the eighth century BCE, allowed villages, towns, and small kingdoms to flourish by the first century CE.


The written history of Japan begins with brief references in the 1st century AD Twenty-Four Histories, a collection of Chinese historical texts. However, archaeological evidence indicates that people were living on the islands of Japan as early as the upper paleolithic period. Following the last ice-age, around 12,000 BC, the rich ecosystem of the Japanese Archipelago fostered human development. The earliest-known pottery belongs to the Jōmon period.


History of Malaysia is the written past of a country in South East Asia whose strategic sea-lane position brought trade and foreign influences that fundamentally influenced its history. Hindu India, the Islamic Middle East and Christian Europe to its west, and China and Japan to the north-east were major influences brought by shipping routes passing through the region. Malaysian history is also intertwined with that of neighbouring Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Brunei and Thailand. This trade and foreign cultures brought the area great wealth and diversity, but has also domination and colonialism. The history of Malaysia is one of successive phases of outside influence, followed by the mid-twentieth century establishment of independence from foreign colonial powers.

New Zealand

The History of New Zealand dates back at least 700 years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Māori culture centred on kinship links and land. The first European explorer came to New Zealand in 1642. From the late 18th century, the country was regularly visited by explorers and other sailors, missionaries, traders and adventurers. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and various Māori chiefs, bringing New Zealand into the British Empire and giving Māori equal rights with British citizens. There was extensive European and some Asian settlement throughout the rest of the century. War and the imposition of an European economic and legal system led to most of New Zealand's land passing from Māori to Pākehā (European) ownership, and most Māori subsequently became impoverished.

From the 1890s the New Zealand parliament enacted a number of progressive initiatives, including women's suffrage and old age pensions. From the 1930s the economy was highly regulated and an extensive welfare state was developed. Meanwhile, Māori culture underwent a renaissance, and from the 1950s Māori began moving to the cities in large numbers. This led to the development of a Māori protest movement which in turn led to greater recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in the late twentieth century. In the 1980s the economy was largely deregulated and a number of socially liberal policies, such as decriminalisation of homosexuality, were put in place. Foreign policy, which had previously consisted mostly of following Britain or the United States, became more independent. Subsequent governments have generally maintained these policies, although tempering the free market ethos somewhat.


In the beginning of the history of the Philippines, the arrival of the first humans via land bridges at least 30,000 years ago. The first recorded visit from the West is the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan on Homonhon Island, southeast of Samar on March 16, 1521. Spanish colonization began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi's expedition and permanent settlement in the island of Cebu, and more settlements continued northward with the colonizers reaching the bay of Manila on the island of Luzon. In Manila, they established a new town and thus began an era of Spanish colonization that lasted for more than three centuries.


In the history of Tahiti, Tahiti is estimated to have been settled by Polynesians between AD 300 and 800 coming from Tonga and Samoa, although some estimates place the date earlier. The fertile island soil combined with fishing provided ample food for the population. Although the first European sighting of the islands was by a Spanish ship in 1606, Spain made no effort to trade with or colonize the island. Samuel Wallis, an English sea captain, sighted Tahiti on June 18, 1767, and is considered the first European visitor to the island. The perceived relaxation and contented nature of the local people and the characterization of the island as a paradise much impressed early European visitors, planting the seed for a romanticization by the West that endures to this day.


In the history of Taiwan, Aboriginal peoples ancestors are believed to have been living on the islands for approximately 8,000 years before major Han Chinese immigration began in the 1600s. The Taiwanese Aborigines are Austronesian peoples, with linguistic and genetic ties to other Austronesian ethnic groups, such as peoples of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Oceania. Taiwan's Austronesian speakers were traditionally distributed over much of the island's rugged central mountain range and concentrated in villages along the alluvial plains. Today, the bulk of the contemporary Taiwanese Aborigine population reside in the mountains and the cities. The issue of an ethnic identity unconnected to the Asian mainland has become one thread in the discourse regarding the political identity of Taiwan. The total population of Aborigines on Taiwan is around 458,000 as of January 2006, which is approximately 2% of Taiwan's population.

Other islands

History of American Samoa begins with inhabitation as early as 1000 BC, Samoa was not reached by European explorers until the 18th century.

The history of Baker Island began when the United States of America took possession of the island in 1857, and its guano deposits were mined by US and British companies during the second half of the 19th century. In 1935, a short-lived attempt at colonization was begun on this island - as well as on nearby Howland Island - but was disrupted by World War II and thereafter abandoned. Presently the island is a National Wildlife Refuge run by the US Department of the Interior; a day beacon is situated near the middle of the west coast.

In the history of Brunei, the Sultanate of Brunei was very powerful from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century CE. Its realm covered the northern part of Borneo and the southwestern Philippines. European influence gradually brought an end to this regional power. Later, there was a brief war with Spain, in which Brunei was victorious. The decline of the Bruneian Empire culminated in the nineteenth century when Brunei lost much of its territory to the White Rajahs of Sarawak, resulting in its current small landmass and separation into two parts. Brunei was a British protectorate from 1888 to 1984.

The history of the Caroline Islands begins with the discovery by the occidentals in 1526, by the Spanish Toribio Alonso de Salazar, he called them "Carolinas" after the emperor Carlos I of Spain, and Charles V of Holy Roman Empire. The Portuguese Diego da Rocha, explorer of the Carolines, also named them the Sequeira Islands in 1527. Though early Spanish navigators in the area (from 1543) called them the Nuevas Filipinas ("New Philippines"), Admiral Francisco Lazeano named them the Carolinas after the Spanish King Charles II in 1686.

Easter Island is one of the youngest inhabited territories on Earth, and for most of the History of Easter Island it was the most isolated inhabited territory on Earth. Its inhabitants the Rapanui have endured famines, epidemics, civil war, slave raids and colonialism; have seen their population crash on more than one occasion, and created a cultural legacy that has brought them fame out of all proportion to their numbers.

In history of Fiji, Fijian history dates back to ancient time. By 1500 BC, Fiji settled by Polynesian seafarers. By 900-600 BC, Moturiki Island settled. By 500 BC, Melanesian seafarers reach Fiji and intermarry with the Polynesian inhabitants, giving rise to the modern Fijian people. By1643 AD, Abel Tasman sights Vanua Levu Island and northern Taveuni.

In the history of French Polynesia, the French Polynesian island groups do not share a common history before the establishment of the French protectorate in 1889. The first French Polynesian islands to be settled by Polynesians were the Marquesas Islands in AD 300 and the Society Islands in AD 800. The Polynesians were organized in petty chieftainships.

European discovery in the History of the Galapagos Islands occurred when Dominican Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the fourth Bishop of Panama, sailed to Peru to settle a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and his lieutenants. De Berlanga's vessel drifted off course when the winds diminished, and his party reached the islands on March 10, 1535. According to a 1956 study by Thor Heyerdahl and Arne Skjølsvold, remains of potsherds and other artifacts from several sites on the islands suggest visitation by South American peoples prior to the arrival of the Spanish.

The History of Guam involves phases including the early arrival of people known today as the ancient Chamorros, the development of "pre-contact" society, Spanish colonization, and the present American rule of the island. Guam's history of colonialism is the longest among the Pacific islands.

Historical evidence suggests that Howland Island was the site of prehistoric settlement, which may have extended down to Rawaki, Kanton, Manra and Orona of the Phoenix Islands 500 to 700 km southeast. This settlement might have taken the form of a single community utilising several adjacent islands, but the hard life on these isolated islands, together with the uncertainty of fresh water supplies, led to an extinction of or dereliction by the settled peoples, in much the way that other islands in the area (such as Kiritimati and Pitcairn) were abandoned. Such settlements probably began around 1000 BC, when eastern Melanesians travelled north.

The history of Jarvis Island begins with the island's first known sighting by Europeans was on 21 August 1821 by the British ship Eliza Francis (or Eliza Frances) owned by Edward, Thomas and William Jarvis and commanded by Captain Brown. In March 1857 the uninhabited island was claimed for the United States under the Guano Islands Act and formally annexed on 27 February 1858.

In the history of Kiribati, the islands which now form the Republic of Kiribati have been inhabited for at least seven hundred years, and possibly much longer. The initial Micronesian population, which remains the overwhelming majority today, was visited by Polynesian and Melanesian invaders before the first European sailors "discovered" the islands in the 16th century. For much of the subsequent period, the main island chain, the Gilbert Islands, was ruled as part of the British Empire. The country gained its independence in 1979 and has since been known as Kiribati.

In the history of Marquesas Islands, the first recorded settlers of the Marquesas were Polynesians, who, from archæological evidence, are believed to have arrived before 100 AD. Ethnological and linguistic evidence suggests that they likely arrived from the region of Tonga and Samoa. The islands were given their name by the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira who reached them on 21 July 1595. He named them after his patron, García Hurtado de Mendoza, Marquis of Cañete, who was Viceroy of Peru at the time. Mendaña visited first Fatu Hiva and then Tahuata before continuing on to the Solomon Islands.

In the history of Melanesia, the original inhabitants of the islands now named Melanesia were likely the ancestors of the present day Papuan-speaking people. These people are thought to have occupied New Guinea tens of millennia ago and reached the islands 35,000 years ago (according to radiocarbon dating). They appear to have occupied these islands as far east as the main islands in the Solomon Islands (i.e., including San Cristobal) and perhaps even to the smaller islands farther to the east.

The ancestors of the Micronesians in the history of Micronesia settled there over 4,000 years ago. A decentralized chieftain-based system eventually evolved into a more centralized economic and religious empire centered on Yap. European explorers - first the Portuguese in search of the Spice Islands (Indonesia) and then the Spanish - reached the Carolines in the 16th century, with the Spanish establishing sovereignty.

Researchers of the History of the Marshall Islands agree on little more than that successive waves of migratory peoples from Southeast Asia spread across the Western Pacific about 3,000 years ago, and that some of them landed on and remained on these islands. The Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar landed there in 1529. They were named for English explorer John Marshall, who visited them in 1799. The Marshall Islands were claimed by Spain in 1874. Following papal mediation and German compensation of $4.5 million, Spain recognized Germany's claim in 1885, which established a protectorate and set up trading stations on the islands of Jaluit and Ebon to carry out the flourishing copra (dried coconut meat) trade. Marshallese Iroij (high chiefs) continued to rule under indirect colonial German administration.

In the history of New Caledonia, the diverse group of people that settled over the Melanesian archipelagos are known as the Lapita. They arrived in the archipelago now commonly known as New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands around 1500 BC. The Lapita were highly skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific. From about the 11th century Polynesians also arrived and mixed with the populations of the archipelago. Europeans first sighted New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands in the late 18th century. The British explorer James Cook sighted Grande Terre in 1774 and named it New Caledonia, Caledonia being the Latin name for Scotland. During the same voyage he also named the islands to the north of New Caledonia the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), after the islands north of Scotland.

The History of Papua New Guinea can be traced back to about 60,000 years ago when people first migrated towards the Australian continent. The written history began when European navigators first sighted New Guinea in the early part of the 16th century. Archaeological evidence indicates that humans arrived on New Guinea at least 60,000 years ago, probably by sea from Southeast Asia during an ice age period when the sea was lower and distances between islands shorter. For an overview of the geological history of the continent of which New Guinea is a part, see Australia-New Guinea. Although the first arrivals were hunters and gatherers, early evidence shows that people managed the forest environment to provide food. The gardens of the New Guinea highlands are ancient, intensive permacultures, adapted to high population densities, very high rainfalls (as high as 10,000mm/yr (400in/yr)), earthquakes, hilly land, and occasional frost. There are indications that gardening was being practiced at the same time that agriculture was developing in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

In the History of Samoa, contact with Europeans began in the early 1700s but did not intensify until the arrival of the English. In 1722, Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to sight the islands. Missionaries and traders arrived in the 1830s. Halfway through the 19th century, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States all claimed parts of the kingdom of Samoa, and established trade posts. King Malietoa Leaupepe died in 1898 and was succeeded by Malietoa Tooa Mataafa. The US and British consuls supported Malietoa Tanu, Leaupepe's son. US and British warships, including the USS Philadelphia shelled Apia on March 15, 1899.

In the History of the Society Islands, the archipelago is generally believed to have been named by Captain James Cook in honor of the Royal Society, sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands; however, Cook states in his journal that he called the islands Society "as they lay contiguous to one another.

The human history of the Solomon Islands begins with the first settlement at least 30,000 years ago from New Guinea. They represented the furthest expansion of humans into the Pacific until the expansion of Austronesian-language speakers through the area around 4000 BC, bringing new agricultural and maritime technology. Most of the languages spoken today in the Solomon Islands derive from this era, but some thirty languages of the pre-Austronesian settlers survive (see East Papuan languages). Ships of the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira first sighted Santa Isabel island on 7 February 1568. Finding signs of alluvial gold on Guadalcanal, Mendaña believed he had found the source of King Solomon's wealth, and consequently named the islands "The Islands of Solomon". In 1595 and 1605 Spain again sent several expeditions to find the islands and establish a colony, however these were unsuccessful. In 1767 Captain Philip Carteret rediscovered Santa Cruz and Malaita. Later, Dutch, French and British navigators visited the islands; their reception was often hostile.

Archaeological evidence indicates that history of Tokelau's atol — Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo — were settled about 1000 years ago, probably by voyages from Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tuvalu. Oral history traces local traditions and genealogies back several hundred years. Inhabitants followed Polynesian mythology with the local god Tui Tokelau; and developed forms of music (see Music of Tokelau) and art. The three atolls functioned largely independently while maintaining social and linguistic cohesion. Tokelauan society was governed by chiefly clans, and there were occasional inter-atoll skirmishes and wars as well as inter-marriage. Fakaofo, the "chiefly island, held some dominance over Atafu and Nukunonu. Life on the atolls was subsistence-based, with reliance on fish and coconut. Commodore John Byron discovered Atafu on 24 June 1765 and named it "Duke of York's Island." Parties onshore reported that there were no signs of current or previous inhabitants.

The History of Tonga stretches back to around roughly 4000 B.C. when the Polynesians arrived. Tonga became known as the Tongan Empire through extensive trading. The Europeans arrived in the 17th century which was followed after a couple hundred years by a single unified Tongan kingdom. Archaeological evidence shows that the first settlers in Tonga sailed from the Santa Cruz Islands, as part of the original Austronesian-speakers' (Lapita) migration which originated out of S.E. Asia some 6000 years before present. Archaeological dating places Tonga as the oldest known site in Polynesia for the distinctive Lapita ceramic ware, at 2800—2750 years before present.

In the history of Tuamotu, the Tuamotus were first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, during his circumglobal voyage in 1521. From the Inca Empire, Tupac Inca Yupanqui is also credited with leading a circa 10 month-long voyage of exploration into the Pacific around 1480. None of these visits were of political consequence, the islands being in the sphere of influence of the Pomare dynasty of Tahiti. At the beginning 18th century the first Christian missionaries arrived. The islands' pearls penetrated the European market in the late 1800s, making them a coveted possession. Following the forced abdication of King Pomare V of Tahiti, the islands were annexed as an overseas territory of France

In the history of Vanuatu, the commonly held theory of Vanuatu's prehistory from archaeological evidence supports that peoples speaking Austronesian languages first came to the islands some 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. Pottery fragments have been found dating back to 1300 B.C. What little is known of the pre-European contact history of Vanuatu has been gleaned from oral histories and legends. One important early king was Roy Mata, who united several tribes, and was buried in a large mound with several retainers. The first island in the Vanuatu group discovered by Spaniards was Espiritu Santo when, in 1606, the Portuguese explorer, Pedro Fernández de Quirós, spied what he thought was a southern continent. Europeans did not return until 1768, when Louis Antoine de Bougainville rediscovered the islands.

See also


Search another word or see Galapagos Islandson Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature