History of Nauru

From Academic Kids

The history of Nauru has been intrinsicly linked with the extraction of phosphate. The island was colonized by the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and Japan, before gaining independence in 1968.


Early history

The first Nauruans were Polynesian and Melanesian explorers. In 1798 John Fearn, a British captain of the whaling ship 'Hunter', became the first European to land on the island, naming it Pleasant Island.

Nauru had little contact with the outside world until whaling ships and other traders began to visit in the 1830s.

The whole island was governed by kings. When the Europeans, especially the Germans, came to Nauru, a local chieftain called Auweyida was the king of the land. He kept to be Nauru's king, although the Europeans took over-hand.

European control

In the nineteenth century the first Europeans came to Nauru. Many Nauruans blame the Europeans for breaking up the social structure of the island with its traditional 12 tribes. A ten-year internal war reduced the population from 1400 to 900.

The 1886 Anglo-German Convention led to the annexation of Nauru by Germany in 1888. In around 1899, the massive phosphate resources on the island were discovered. Beginning in 1906, the Pacific Phosphate Company started exploitation of the rock.

In 1914 Australia took control of Nauru. Then Britain held control until 1920, when the League of Nations gave Britain, Australia and New Zealand a Trustee Mandate over the territory. The British Phosphate Commissioners (BPC) were given the rights to phosphate mining.

In 1932, the first Angam Baby was born.

In 1940 the Nazi German auxiliary cruiser Komet sank five merchant ships and bombarded the island, causing damage to the phosphate mining.

Japanese occupation

In 1942 the Japanese occupied Nauru. The native Nauruans were badly treated by the occupying forces. On one occasion 49 leprosy sufferers were reputedly loaded on to boats which were towed out to sea and sunk. In 1943 some 1200 Nauruans were taken by Truk (now Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia) as slave labourers.

On January 1, 1946 with Micronesia now under American control, the 800-odd Nauruans still surviving were returned to Nauru on a BPC ship 'Trienza'. During the post-war period, Nauru was administered by Australia as a UN Trust Territory.


On January 31, 1968 Nauru became an the world's smallest independent republic. Phosphate rights were acquired from Britain in 1970. Money gained from the exploitation of phosphate gave Nauruans one of the highest living standards in the Pacific.

Modern-day Nauru

By the close of the twentieth century, the phosphate supplies were fast running out. Nauru finally joined the UN in 1999.

In 2001, Nauru was brought to world attention by the saga of the MV Tampa, a Norwegian cargo ship at the centre of a diplomatic dispute between Australia, Norway and Indonesia. The ship carried asylum seekers, hailing primarily from Afghanistan, who were rescued while attempting to reach Australia. After much debate many of the immigrants were transported to Nauru, an arrangement known in Australia as the "Pacific Solution". Shortly thereafter, the Nauruan government closed its borders to most international visitors, preventing outside observers from monitoring the refugees' condition.

In December of 2003, several dozen of these refugees, in protest of the conditions of their detention on Nauru, began a hunger strike. The hunger strike was concluded in early January 2004 when an Australian medical team agreed to visit the island. Since then all but 100 of the refugees have been allowed into Australia.

During 2002 Nauru severed diplomatic recognition with Taiwan and signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. This move followed China's promise to provide more than U.S.$130 million in aid.

Nauru was also approached by the U.S. with a deal to modernize Nauru's infrastructure in exchange for suppression of the island's lax banking laws that allow activities that are illegal in other countries to flourish. Under this deal Nauru would also be obligated to establish an embassy in China and perform certain "safehouse" and courier services for the U.S. government. Nauru agreed to the deal and instituted banking reform, but the U.S. later denied knowledge of the deal. The matter is being pursued in an Australian court, and initial judgments have been in favor of Nauru.

The government is desperately in need of money to pay off salary arrears of civil servants and to continue funding the welfare state built up in the heady days of phosphate mining (Nauruans pay no taxes). Nauru has yet to develop a plan to remove the innumerable coral pinnacles created by mining and make those lands suitable for human habitation.

See also

External links

de:Geschichte Naurus pl:Historia Nauru no:Naurus historie


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