Vanuatu History

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Settled by people from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, the islands were charted by British Navigator James Cook in 1774, who named them the New Hebrides. In the 1860s, Catholic and Protestant missionaries arrived. Political control was contested by France and Great Britain. In 1906 they set up a joint rule. The islands served as a major Allied staging base in World War II. A brief rebellion by French settlers and plantation workers was quelled by British and French forces in May 1980. The country achieved independence in July 1980, and is a member of the British Commonwealth.[1]


B.C. The first settlers arrive from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands by canoe.
1200 It is part of the kingdom of Tonga.
1606 It is visited by the Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandez de Queiro who named them “Espiritu Santo.”
1768 The Frenchman, Alexandre de Bougainville, put ashore on Aoba, Pentecost, and Maewo and named them the “Cyclades” and named the strait between the islands after himself.
1774 Vanuatu is explored by Captain James Cook, who renames them New Hebrides after the islands off Scotland.
1800 English missionaries begin arriving. The population is about one million. Foreigners begin stripping the islands of sandalwood and introducing diseases.
1860 Natives are kidnapped to work on sugar and cotton plantations in Queensland, Australia and Fiji.
1875 French Tanners, who are Catholic settlers, petition France to annex the islands.
1876 English Presbyterian missionaries petition England to annex the islands.
1887 The islands were placed under an English and French Naval commission. Records are kept in both French and English.
1901 Australia introduces the Pacific Islands Labour Bill, ending the kidnapping (blackbirding) of islanders.
1906 A condominium government run by England and France is established.
1935 Due to diseases and kidnaping, the native population has fallen to 45,000.
1940 Allied forces use the island as a base. Roads are built, and wages are good for the natives.
1960 European settlers claim over 30 percent of the land.
1978 The condominium government ceases.
1980 The islands become independent as Vanuatu. Most French nationals leave and the land is reverted entirely to the indigenous ni-Vanuatu.
1991 A coalition led by Prime Minister Maxime Carlot governs Vanuatu.


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Melanesia,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1987-2000.