Early inhabitants of Nauru were Micronesian and Polynesian settlers from about 3,000 years ago. The island society developed into twelve tribes or clans and these are depicted today by the 12 points on the star of the flag of Nauru.
The first Europeans to visit the island were on the British whaling ship Hunter in 1798, but it wasn’t until around 1830 that European whalers regularly arrived and some stayed.
In 1878 there was a ten year civil war largely brought on by the introduction of alcohol and firearms by the Europeans; both were subsequently banned. The war came to an end when the Germans arrived in 1886 and in 1888 the island was annexed to Germany and it was incorporated into their Marshall Island Protectorate.
In 1900 phosphate was discovered on Nauru and by 1907 the first exports were being made.
Following the outbreak of World War One the Australians captured the island in 1914 and by 1923 they had achieved trustee mandate of Nauru with the United Kingdom and New Zealand as co-trustees.
In World War Two the island suffered attacks from German auxiliary cruisers in 1940 and was occupied by the Japanese in 1942. The island was liberated in 1945 by the Australians who took over where they had left off.
Nauru became self-governing in January 1966 and on 31st January 1968 the island became an independent republic. Whilst the phosphate mining continued the country grew richer, but in 2006 the last mining was discontinued and since then the island has found itself in increasingly difficult financial circumstances. The phosphate mines have blighted the island and there are few other options for trading.
Nauru has tried to diversify by creating an offshore international financial centre and selling fishing licenses to other countries. In 2004 Nauru was given a lifeline with the establishment of the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru (PRAN) when Pacific Islands Forum Leaders agreed to the Government of Nauru’s request for regional assistance.
Politically the island has remained unstable with more than nineteen different governments being formed in the last ten years. In 2010 the country had two tries at forming a government and in 2013 President Sprent Dabwido called an election for 8th June after the parliament had been brought to a standstill by absentee parliamentarians for months on end. The hope is that the new parliament will be able to move forward especially with the election of 19 members rather than 18 as in previous elections which tended to create a stalemate.
The President is elected by parliament for a three year term.
A unicameral parliament with 19 members (as of 2013) elected by popular vote to serve three year terms.