History of the Solomon Islands

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The human history of the Solomon Islands, in the Melanesia subregion of Oceania in the western Pacific Ocean, spans over 30,000 years.


Original Austronesians

The human history of the Solomon Islands begins with the first Austronesian 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).

European exploration

Ships of the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira first sighted Santa Isabel island on 6 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 the Santa Cruz Islands and Malaita. Later, Dutch, French and British navigators visited the islands; their reception was often hostile.


Sikaiana, then known as the Stewart Islands, was annexed to the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1856.

Missionary activity then started at the mid 19th century and European colonial ambitions led to the establishment of a German Protectorate over the Northern Solomons, following an Anglo-German Treaty of 1886. A British Solomon Islands Protectorate over the southern islands was proclaimed in June 1893. German interests were transferred to the United Kingdom under the Samoa Tripartite Convention of 1899, in exchange for recognition of the German claim to Western Samoa.

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