Marshall Islands History

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History[edit | edit source]

Micronesian colonists reached the Marshall Islands using canoes circa 2nd millennium BC, with inter-island navigation made possible using traditional stick charts. They eventually settled here. Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s, starting with Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese at the service of Spain, Juan Sebastián Elcano and Miguel de Saavedra. Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar reported sighting an atoll in August 1526. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed. The islands derive their name from British explorer John Marshall, who visited in 1788.

Spain claimed the islands in 1592, and the European powers recognized its sovereignty over the islands in 1874. They had been part of the Spanish East Indies formally since 1528. Later, Spain sold some of the islands to the German Empire in 1885, and they became part of German New Guinea that year, run by the trading companies doing business in the islands.

In World War I the Empire of Japan occupied the Marshall Islands, which in 1920, the League of Nations combined with other former German territories to form the South Pacific Mandate. During World War II, the United States took control of the islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign in 1944. Nuclear testing began in 1946 and concluded in 1958.

The US government formed the Congress of Micronesia in 1965, a plan for increased self-governance of Pacific islands. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1979 provided independence to the Marshall Islands, whose constitution and president were formally recognized by the US.

The majority of the citizens of the Republic of Marshall Islands, formed in 1982, are of Marshallese descent, though there are small numbers of immigrants from the United States, China, Philippines, and other Pacific islands. The two official languages are Marshallese, which is one of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, and English. Almost the entire population of the islands practices some religion, with three-quarters of the country either following the United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands or the Assemblies of God.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1494 - All of Micronesia is ceded to Spain
1529 - Spaniard Alvaro Saavedra discovers the Marshalls.
1788 - British Naval Captain William Marshall sails through the area while transporting convicts and names it.
1857 - Reverend Hiram Bingham, Jr. of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions creates a missionary outpost on Ebon.
1860s - Adolph Capelle builds the first trading company in the Marshalls. Other German trading firms come
1878 - Germans establish a calling station
1886 - Germany establishes a protectorate over the Marshalls
1898 - Germany receives ownership of Ujelang and Enewetok atolls as a result of the Spanish American war
1914 - The Marshalls are captured from Germany by the Japanese
1943 - Allied invasion of the Marshalls begins and occupation results
1945 - End of World War II grants control of the Marshall Islands to the U.S.A.
1954 - U.S. nuclear hydrogen bomb on Bikini atoll and radiation from the test forces evacuation of all people on 'Rongelap, Rongerik, Utirik, and Ailinginae.
1979 - The country becomes self-governing
1982 - It is renamed the Republic of the Marshall Islands