Melanesian people are said to have inhabited the Solomon Islands for thousands of years. It is thought that Papuan-speaking immigrants first arrived about 30,000 BC. Around 4,000 BC, Austronesian speakers came, introducing cultural features such as the outrigger canoe. The Lapita people, progenitors of the Polynesians, came from the Bismarck Archipelago with their distinctive pottery between 1,200 and 800 BC.
The first European to explore the islands was the Spanish sailor lvaro de Mendaa de Neira, who arrived in 1568 from Peru. Prior to the advent of the Europeans, the inhabitants of the Solomon Islands were renowned for headhunting and cannibalism. In the mid-nineteenth century, missionaries started to visit the Solomon Islands. They made little headway at first because “blackbirding” (the sometimes violent recruitment of workers for Queensland and Fiji sugar plantations) resulted in a series of reprisals and murders. In June 1893, the United Kingdom declared a protectorate over the southern Solomons due to the horrors of the labor trade.
During WWII, the Solomon Islands campaign of 1942–45, particularly the Battle of Guadalcanal, saw intense combat between Americans and Japanese. In 1976, self-government was established, followed by independence two years later. The Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy ruled by the Queen of the Solomon Islands, currently Elizabeth II.
Ethnic unrest, government misbehavior, and criminality threatened stability and civilization in 1998. The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), headed by Australia, arrived in June 2003 and restored peace, disbanded ethnic militias, and strengthened civil administration. It also resulted in the construction of facilities for expatriate employees.