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Pacific Island Guide > Nauru
Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island, is the world's smallest island nation, covering just 21 km² (8.1 sq. mi), the smallest independent republic, and the only republican state in the world without an official capital. It is the least populous member of the United Nations.
Nauru was annexed by Germany and became a colony in the late 19th century. It became a mandate territory administered by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom following World War I. The island was occupied by Japan during World War II, and after the war entered into trusteeship again. Nauru achieved independence in 1968.
This oval-shaped outcrop in the Central Pacific, west of Kiribati, is surrounded by a reef which is exposed at low tide. A century of phosphate mining has stripped 80 percent of the land area, and has left the central plateau infertile and unpopulated. The island has a fertile coastal strip. The population in the year 2000 was 11,000.
The clan has been the traditional building block of Nauruan life, and electoral boundaries follow the clan boundaries. Clan names are of the utmost importace in doing Nauran family history work. They give us clues as to who is our relative and where they lived.
1798 Captain John Feam names it “Pleasant Island.”
1850 Whalers, black birders, loggers, and buccaneers stop by the island. Firearms are introduced.
1870 The 12 tribes of islanders have been at war and the population was decreased by one third.
1888 The Germans invaded Nauru. They make it a German protectorate along with Marshall Islands until 1914.
1900 A huge supply of phosphate is discovered and a London company begins shipping it to Australia.
1914 Australian warships wrest the island from Germany and it becomes a British-mandated territory. Phosphate mining continues, with thousands of tons of phosphate exported. Chinese laborers are brought in.
1942 The Japanese invade Nauru and deport 1200 native islanders to Truk Island for forced labor. 500 perish. The Japanese starve and force the islanders to harsh labor.
1946 The Japanese surrender and the British take over again. 737 survivors return to find that only 1,000 native islanders are left.
1951 The Local Government Council is established.
1968 Nauru wins full independence and becomes a special member of the British Commonwealth.
1970 Australia, New Zealand, and Britain hand over their joint control of phosphate operations to the Nauru Phosphate Corporation.
1989 Nauru wins a suit and Australia pays for damages of the landscape. Environmental recovery work begins.
1996 Due to financial need, Nauru begins to receive would-be refugees to Australia in exchange for payment.
On the Internet, go to Familysearch.org. Choose the Library tab and then Family History Library Catalog. Click on Place. Type in Nauru, and a list of current holdings for Nauru will be displayed.
Microfilm number VAULT INT Film 1213009 contains some oral histories from the 1900s to 1945.