Kiribati has been populated for at least
3,000 years. In the 19th century, Europeans began to
come in larger numbers. They did some trading and
carried away islanders to work on plantations elsewhere.
The Gilbert Islands, today's Tungaru, ended up together
with the Ellice Islands, today Tuvalu, under British
rule from 1892. During World War II, Tungaru was
occupied by Japan and fierce battles were fought between
the United States and Japan on the Tarawa Atoll.
Kiribati's first inhabitants arrived from Asia. Their
descendants later mingled with Fiji and Tongans. Until
modern times, small local kingdoms waged war on each
other over territories and influence.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Kiribati, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
A shipwrecked European is said to have flown ashore
on an island as early as the 16th century, where he came
to leave many descendants, but only towards the end of
the 18th century did Europeans begin to seriously
explore the area. In the 19th century, the islands were
attacked by British and American whaling vessels and
merchant vessels that bought coconut oil. Thousands of
islanders were forcibly recruited for plantation work on
other Pacific islands and in South America.
Together with the Ellice Islands (Tuvalu), the
Gilbert Islands (Tungaru) became a British protectorate
in 1892 and a British colony in 1916. Several islands
gradually joined. In 1920, the British began to break
down phosphate on a large scale on the island of Banaba,
which had been annexed as early as 1900 after
discovering large assets of guano (bird droppings rich
During World War II, Japan occupied Tungaru in
1942-1943. Tarawa became the site of some of the
toughest battles between Japan and the United States in
the Pacific. In 1957, Britain conducted three
atmospheric nuclear tests near the Kiritimati Atoll and
in 1962 the United States tested nuclear weapons in the