The Society Islands were visited in 1767 by the English navigator Samuel Wallis, who claimed them for Great Britain. A year later, however, the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville established a French claim. They were named the Society Islands in 1769 by Capt. James Cook. The group became a protectorate of France in 1843 and a colony in 1880. In 1946, French Polynesia, including the Society Islands, became an overseas territory of France.
Administratively, the Windward Islands form the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands (subdivision administrative des Îles du Vent), one of French Polynesia's five administrative subdivisions. Geographically, the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands is identical with the electoral district of the Windward Islands (circonscription des Îles du Vent), one of French Polynesia's 6 electoral districts (circonsriptions électorales) for the Assembly of French Polynesia (see also Politics of French Polynesia).