Papua New Guinea History

By | January 19, 2022

Papua New Guinean. It is a country in Oceania that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and a large number of islands located around it. It is located in the north of Australia, west of the Solomon Islands and southwest of the Pacific Ocean, in a region defined since the beginning of the 19th century as Melanesia. The capital is Port Moresby.

In the 16th century, the first Westerners who sighted the coasts of New Guinea were the Portuguese Ambreu and Serrano, and the first to disembark in that territory was Jorge de Meneses in the year 1526 and is baptized as Ilhas dos Papuas.

The Portuguese were soon followed by the Spanish: Saavedra in 1528-1529, Grijalva and Alvarado in 1537, and Iñigo Ortiz de Retes in 1545 added New Guinea, due to the resemblance of the residents to the Guineans.

Then the Dutch arrived: Seneuten le Maire, Tasman and other sailors traveled the north and northwest coast from 1616 to 1768. Finally the English made their appearance in this territory in the year 1700 with Dampier, who crossed the strait that separates New Britain from the southeast coast of New Guinea. In 1770 the English captain Cook sailed through the Torres Strait, and Banpton visited the island in 1793.

In 1828 the Dutch seized the western region of the territory, while the English Blackwood occupied the southern coast. The Netherlands acquired nominal sovereignty over New Guinea up to 141º 20 ‘east longitude of the Greenwich meridian. The exploration of the interior of New Guinea is more contemporary; of all, those that deserve to be mentioned are that of the Austrian Meyer (1873), that of the Italian D’Albertis (1876) and that of the Englishman Mac Farlane.

In 1873 Captain Moresby took possession on behalf of the British crown of the southeastern peninsula, planning to annex the island, when Germany raised its flag on the north coast. The conflict that could arise was avoided with the act of May 17, 1885, which recognized the rights of the Netherlands in the entire western region up to the aforementioned meridian, and divided control of the eastern region between England and Germany.

The German territory of the north coast was under the control of the German Company of New Guinea from 1885 to 1899, the year in which it passed into the hands of the government of that country.

However, the colonization of New Guinea and the neighboring islands caused many problems for Europeans, some diseases such as malaria prevented rapid colonization. Some areas of the interior were not seen by Europeans until the 1930s.

Between the years 1930 and 1935, the Europeans carried out several expeditions in the interior of the Highlands where they came into contact with hitherto unknown tribes. During the years 1942 to 1945, the Japanese occupied several islands in the archipelago.


In 1971 the eastern territory was officially named Papua New Guinea and became an autonomous state. In 1975 it achieved its independence under the leadership of Michael Somare, winner of the first elections held three years earlier, Papua New Guinea became a member of the British Commonwealth.

Since independence it has faced secessionist movements. Relations with Indonesia, which occupies the western part of the island, are conflictive. This is where the Free Papua movement operates. In 1984, twelve thousand residents of that province took refuge in Papua New Guinea. Many still remain in the area.

Mining generates more than half of export earnings. It is the essential element of the economy along with oil. In 1989, the secessionist dispute over the island of Bougainville, the location of gold and copper deposits under Australian control, was militarized. The conflict deepened. The dispatch of troops was approved and, in 1991, the reintroduction of the death penalty. In 1996 Theodore Miriung, promoter of a peace agreement, was assassinated. Early 1997, Prime Minister Chan resigned for hiring mercenaries against secessionists. In 1997 the government and the rebels reached an agreement on a cease-fire, demilitarization and dispatch of UN troops. Australia promised funds for reconstruction. In nine years, 20 thousand people had died. In July 1998 a tsunami devastated the north coast, killing more than 2,000 people.

According to, the political system was a problem from the beginning. Formally a parliamentary and democratic monarchy, it had a very weak and atomized party system. This has determined the fall of governments through the procedure of vote of no confidence by the unicameral Parliament. In eleven years he had five prime ministers.

In 1999, Prime Minister Bill Skate fell over the decision to apply for $ 2.5 billion in loans from Taiwan. He was replaced by Mekele Morauta, who began efforts to obtain credits from the World Bank and the IMF, which caused friction with China. He was the prime minister who completed his term. The general elections of 2002 brought to power a Michael Somare for the third time. The objectives of the new government included the adoption of urgent measures against poverty, chronic unemployment and widespread crime.

Papua New Guinea History