The first immigration to the Solomon Islands probably
took place in the 2nd millennium BCE. The first European to
arrive was the Spanish seafarer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira
(1567). He named the island after the King Solomon of the
Bible because he believed he had found the land of Ophir.
Later, Mendaña and other explorers made several
unsuccessful attempts to find the islands, but it was 200
years before they were again visited by Europeans (Philip
Carteret in 1767 and Louis-Antoine de Bougainville 1768).
In the 1850s, the Anglican Church began to mission on the
islands. Australian plantation owners' often brutal
recruitment of farm workers reached the Solomon Islands in
the 1860s. In 1885, Britain and Germany took control of each
part of the islands.
In 1893, Germany surrendered most of its islands to the
United Kingdom, which established a British protectorate;
Germany retained Buka and Bougainville (included in German
New Guinea). After World War I, the German territories came
under Australian administration.
During World War II there were fierce battles over the
Solomon Islands. Japan occupied Bougainville and Guadalcanal
in 1942, but in February 1944 all the islands were
recaptured by US forces. On July 7, 1978, the British
Solomon Islands Protectorate became an independent state by
the name of the Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands), with
Peter Kenilorea as prime minister. See
abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands have no political parties in the
Western sense; new coalitions between independent candidates
and groups have replaced each other in rapid succession. A
continuing theme of controversy has been concessions to
foreign timber companies, following strong warnings that the
harvesting of the tropical rain forest is happening at too
high a pace.
An armed conflict in Bougainville, where the government
of Papua New Guinea has been fighting against detachment
attempts, has had a ripple effect on the Solomon Islands.
During the search for rebels, Papuan forces repeatedly
raided some of the islands. Solomon Islands has rejected
Papuan claims of active assistance to the rebels in
Bougainville, claiming only humanitarian aid is provided.
A protracted conflict between the two isatabu peoples,
the indigenous people of the main island of Guadalcanal, and
the Malaita tribe from the neighboring island of Malaita,
was gradually sharpened in the 1990s. Both are ethnic
Melanesians, but have different languages and cultures.
Many Malaysians have come to the Guadalcanal as immigrants
and have gradually seized the economic power, which caused
resentment among the indigenous population. The conflict has
at times created civil war-like conditions.
In 1998–1999, the riots took a serious turn on
Guadalcanal, with fighting between the militant groups
Isatambu's liberation movement (IFM) and the Malaita eagles
(MEE). Many Malaysians were chased from the Guadalcanal. In
2000, the Malaita Eagles responded with a coup attempt,
supported by police units. A peace agreement signed that
year was not enforced. Conditions became increasingly
chaotic, and the violence brought most people into deep
The conflict between the Isatabu and Malaita peoples was
the reason why the Solomon Islands in July 2003 became the
scene of the largest military action in the South Pacific
since World War II. A multinational force of 2,300 soldiers
and police - most Australians - went ashore to stop the
fighting which since 1998 had cost approx. 250 lives and
driven 20,000 on the run. The intervention took place
without the UN's intervention, but all 16 member states of
the Pacific Islands Forum cooperated with their consent.
The expeditionary force should not only provide peace and
order, but also address a comprehensive corruption within
the state apparatus. On the Australian side, the action was
justified by the fact that a lawless Solomon could in time
become a haven for "drug trafficking, money laundering and
Australia led a civilian recovery program. In 2005, many
social functions had been normalized, but the program
continued for a number of years. The Solomon Islands have
also previously had close links with Australia, which has a
fleet base in Honiara. An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 on the
Richter scale triggered on April 1, 2006, a 10-meter high
tidal wave that overturned over parts of the vast
archipelago. 52 people were killed and 9,000 were made
homeless, according to UN disaster experts.
In politics, much of the attention gathered around Prime
Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who in May 2006 was elected
prime minister during fierce protests. He has repeatedly
criticized Australian members of the multinational force
that in 2003 moved to stop warlike settlements between rival
Sogavare took party to the country's Attorney General,
Julian Moti, who is also an Australian citizen and whom
Australia has requested extradited as suspected of sexual
abuse against minors. The Prime Minister responded to the
extradition demand to threaten the Australians in the
multinational aid force with deportation. Sogavare accused
the Australians of "neo-colonialist" behavior, and has also
publicly accused Australia of plans to kill him. However,
Moti was released to Australia in the fall of 2007.
In December 2007, nine ministers resigned from the
government in protest of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's
leadership style. Sogavare had to step down from the Prime
Minister's post following a vote of no confidence, and
opposition candidate Derek Sikua elected new governor. In
2014, however, Sogavare was appointed prime minister for the
third time, but was replaced by Rick Houenipwela in 2017.