Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Tuvalu (Ellice Islands)

Capital: Funafuti

Size: 10 sq m Popn: 12 000

The first inhabitants of these south-west Pacific islands were Melanesians and they were invaded and occupied by Samoans during the C16th.

The first Europeans arrived in 1765. During the mid-19th, so many Melanesians were captured by European slave traders and sent to work on plantations in South America that the population declined from about 20 000 to 3000. From 1892 they were a British protectorate and became part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony in 1915, separating in 1972.

In 1978, they became independent within the Commonwealth and took their old name of Tuvalu or 'eight standing together' (there is a ninth very small island). The first prime minister, Toaripi Lauti, was replaced after a investment scandal in 1981 by Dr Tomasi Puapua who was re-elected in 1985. A vote on becoming a republic in 1986 was only supported by one island and Tuvalu remained a constitutional monarchy. In 1989, the new prime minister, Bikenibeu Paeniu, promised to reduce dependence on foreign aid.

As it is so small, Tuvalu is a 'special member' of the Commonwealth and does not have direct representation at meetings of heads of government.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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