During this time the missionaries made headway throughout the
Solomon Islands, including into the lands further from the shores. The colonization
efforts also expanded, however settlements remained primarily on the coasts. Among
the countries vying for this power and control were primarily the
Germans and British. In 1886 the Germans
gained control over the northern half of the islands, while the United Kingdom gained
control over the southern half. However, as fortunes in the South Pacific shifted,
in 1893 the Germans handed over their claim on the islands in exchange for
Samoa, giving the British complete control over the islands.
Despite the battles and arguments over the islands, neither the
Germans nor the British made a significant
impact on the people. Both of these countries sought the islands for the potential
economic gain they provided so most of their efforts were focused on trading posts
and the growth of tradable goods, such as coconuts. It was the missionaries that
made the greatest impact on the local culture as they had regular interactions with
the people and were quite successful in converting a large percentage of the population
to Christianity. Through this process the people abandoned many of their prior beliefs
and began to adopt European customs and languages (primarily English) in addition
to European religions.
It wasn't until the arrival of World War II (WWII) that European
settlers truly affected the local people, other than the earlier missionaries. The
Japanese invaded and took over the islands in the early 1940s,
but the United States and other Allied
forces arrived in 1942 for some of the bloodiest, but also some of the most strategic
and important battles in the Pacific front of WWII.
From 1942 until 1945 the Japanese resisted American advances
in the Battle of Guadalcanal, which took place on the island of the same name. This
island was also the scene of later U.S. President, John F Kennedy's shipwreck.
This long and bloody battle eventually ended in 1945 with an American victory, partially
due to numerous locals assisting the United States;
generally the locals disagreed and fought Japanese occupation.
After the war, life changed dramatically for the people of the
Solomon Islands. Their historic lifestyle and economy was based on basic
farming, but the battles destroyed most of the fields, while it also introduced
industry, new technology, and encouraged the urbanization of the population. The
United States essentially created the city
of Honiara (today's capital) when they formed the city as their base. Also,
due to the loss of agricultural fields and the construction of factories, many people
moved to cities and took jobs in a more organized and industrial economy.
In addition to destroying farm lands, the war also polluted much of the
Solomon Islands, most commonly with sunken warships and planes. This destroyed
much of the environment as the sea life was badly damaged and the pollution in the
surrounding waters and on land hurt both animal and plant life as well as human
After the war the islands again fell under the control of the
United Kingdom and they began organizing local politics. Local governments,
the historic form of politics on the islands, were re-established, but so was a
hierarchy creating a more centralized representative political system. Again, this
continued the vast changes to the culture as the people began unifying as one instead
of as citizens of their local community or island.
This process ended in 1978 with Solomon Islands
gaining independence from the United Kingdom. There
were few to no independence movements at the time, but the United Kingdom was facing
a number of domestic issues that forced them to grant independence earlier than
Since independence the country has endlessly struggled. The economic situation at
the time of independence was unstable and little has changed. The political situation
has also created problems as both domestic and foreign issues have plagued the government,
which have divided the people.
On the domestic side, the most important issue came in tensions between the ethnic
Gwale people and the Malaita people. Both coexisted on Guadalcanal (the Malaita
being fairly recent immigrants to the island), but tensions between them continued
to rise until civil war broke out in 1999. After attacks by both sides, the Malaitans
forced the Prime Minster to step down in 2000. Sadly, the new government did little
to help the situation, although most violence has since ended in the
This chaos continues today, primarily on the island of Guadalcanal, but some significant
improvements have taken place. In 2003 the government finally asked for international
interference to stop the violence and to assist in resolving ethnic, legal, and
economic issues, which were all affected by the war. Although peace keeping forces
have arrived, the economy is still in shambles (although it is slowly recovering)
and ethnic tensions have mellowed, although they still exist.
Throughout this process the people's lives have been complete disrupted as few
people have been able to maintain a steady job or make a living. Ethnic tensions
have also divided the people, giving people a stronger and stronger identity based
upon their ethnicity, rather than on their nationality, religion, or any other identifying
A final issue facing Solomon Islands, although having
a much less significant impact in Solomon Islands itself, is the question of Bougainville.
Bougainville Island is a part of Papua New Guinea, but culturally and linguistically
is more closely related to Solomon Islands. Many of Bougainville's residents
have sought independence from Papua New Guinea
or even union with Solomon Islands. While this is a huge issue in Bougainville and
in Papua New Guinea, most people in Solomon Islands have taken little notice as
their focus is on domestic issues, such as the past civil war and the damaged economy.