History of Palau

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Republic of Palau

Palau was initially settled around 1000 BC.

For the first time, Palau was probably sighted by Europeans early as 1522, when the Spanish mission of the Trinidad, the flagship of Ferdinand Magellan's voyage of circumnavigation, sighted two small islands around the 5th parallel north, naming them "San Juan" without visiting them.

Ferdinand Magellan Portuguese explorer in the service of Spain

Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who organised the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth, completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano.


Palau was truly discovered by the Europeans on 28 December 1696 when the first map of Palau was drawn by the Czech missionary Paul Klein [1] based on a description given by a group of Palauans shipwrecked on the Philippine coast on Samar. This map and a letter sent to Europe by Klein in June 1697 had a vast impact on the surge of interest in Palau. It resulted in the first and failed the Jesuit attempts to travel to the islands from the Philippines in 1700, 1708 and 1709. The islands were first visited by the Jesuit expedition led by Francisco Padilla on 30 November 1710, only to leave 2 stranded priests Jacques Du Beron and Joseph Cortyl on the coast of Sonsorol, while the mother ship Santissima Trinidad was being swept away by a storm. Subsequent attempts to save Du Beron and Cortyl learned that they were killed and eaten by the locals.

Czech Republic Country in Central Europe

The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name, Czechia, is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east, and Poland to the northeast. The Czech Republic is a landlocked country with a hilly landscape that covers an area of 78,866 square kilometers (30,450 sq mi) with a mostly temperate continental climate and oceanic climate. It is a unitary parliamentary republic, with 10.6 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Prague, with 1.3 million residents; other major cities are Brno, Ostrava, Olomouc and Pilsen.

Paul Klein was a Jesuit missionary, pharmacist, botanist, author of an astronomic observation, writer, rector of Colegio de Cavite as well as the rector of Colegio de San José and later Jesuit Provincial Superior in the Philippines, the highest ranking Jesuit official in the country. Klein is known as an important personality of life during the 18th-century Manila.

Samar island of the Philippines

Samar is the third largest island in the Philippines. Located in eastern Visayas, within central Philippines. The island is divided into three provinces: Samar, Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar. These three provinces, along with the provinces on the nearby islands of Leyte and Biliran are part of the Eastern Visayas region.

After further attempts, Palau islands were made part of the Spanish East Indies in 1885. Following Spain's defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Imperial Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea. British traders became prominent visitors in the 18th century, followed by expanding Spanish influence in the 19th century. Following its defeat in the Spanish–American War, Spain sold Palau and most of the rest of the Caroline Islands to Germany in 1899. Control passed to Japan in 1914 and during World War II the islands were taken by the United States in 1944, with the costly Battle of Peleliu between September 15 and November 25 with more than 2,000 Americans and 10,000 Japanese killed. The islands passed formally to the United States under United Nations auspices in 1947 as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Spanish East Indies Spanish territory in Asia-Pacific from 1565 until 1901

The Spanish East Indies were the colonies of the Spanish Empire in Asia and Oceania from 1565 until 1901. At one time or another, they included the Philippines, Marianas, Carolines, Palaos and Guam, as well as parts of Formosa (Taiwan), Sulawesi (Celebes) and the Moluccas (Maluku). The King of Spain traditionally styled himself "King of the East and West Indies".

Spanish–American War Conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States

The Spanish–American War was an armed conflict between Spain and the United States in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to emergence of U.S. predominance in the Caribbean region, and resulted in U.S. acquisition of Spain's Pacific possessions. That led to U.S. involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately in the Philippine–American War.

German–Spanish Treaty (1899) 1899 German–Spanish Treaty

The German–Spanish Treaty of 1899, signed by the German Empire and the Kingdom of Spain, involved Spain selling the vast majority of its remaining Pacific Ocean islands to Germany for 25 million pesetas.

Four of the Trust Territory districts formed a single federated Micronesian state in 1979, but the districts of Palau and the Marshall Islands declined to participate. Palau, the westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands, instead opted for independent status in 1978, approved a new constitution and became the Republic of Palau in 1981, and signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States in 1982. After eight referendums and an amendment to the Palauan constitution, the Compact was ratified in 1993 and went into effect on October 1, 1994, marking Palau independent de jure (after Palau was independent de facto since May 25, 1994, when the trusteeship cancelled).

Micronesia Subregion of Oceania

Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, composed of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a close shared cultural history with two other island regions: Polynesia to the east and Island Melanesia to the south; as well as the wider Austronesian peoples.

Marshall Islands country in Oceania

The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is an island country and a United States associated state near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the International Date Line. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population of 53,158 people is spread out over 29 coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The capital and largest city is Majuro.

Compact of Free Association international agreement between the United States and the Pacific Island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau

The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement establishing and governing the relationships of free association between the United States and the three Pacific Island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. These nations, together with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, formerly composed the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States Navy from 1947 to 1951 and by the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1951 to 1986.

Legislation making Palau an "offshore" financial center was passed by the Senate in 1998. In 2001, Palau passed its first bank regulation and anti-money laundering laws. [2]

Bank regulation is a form of [government] [regulation] which subjects [bank]s to certain requirements, restrictions and guidelines, designed to create [Transparency (market)|market transparency] between banking institutions and the individuals and [corporation]s with whom they conduct business, among other things. As regulation focusing on key actors in the financial markets, it forms one of the three components of [financial law], the other two being case law and self-regulating market practices.


Carbon dating of cave burials show a pygmy population, presumably the result of insular dwarfism, from at least 3,000, and perhaps as long as 4,500 years ago until about 900 years ago (1000–2500 BCE until ca. 1100 CE). [3]

Insular dwarfism Form of phyletic dwarfism occurring on islands

Insular dwarfism, a form of phyletic dwarfism, is the process and condition of large animals evolving or having a reduced body size when their population's range is limited to a small environment, primarily islands. This natural process is distinct from the intentional creation of dwarf breeds, called dwarfing. This process has occurred many times throughout evolutionary history, with examples including dinosaurs, like Europasaurus, and modern animals such as elephants and their relatives. This process, and other "island genetics" artifacts, can occur not only on islands, but also in other situations where an ecosystem is isolated from external resources and breeding. This can include caves, desert oases, isolated valleys and isolated mountains. Insular dwarfism is one aspect of the more general "island effect" or "Foster's rule", which posits that when mainland animals colonize islands, small species tend to evolve larger bodies, and large species tend to evolve smaller bodies.


The Palauan language is an outlier among the Austronesian languages, and so does not shed much light on the origins of the modern population. However, there are some indications that it may derive from the Sunda Islands (modern Indonesia).

For thousands of years, Palauans have had a well established matrilineal society, believed to have descended from Javanese precedents. [4] [ citation needed ] Traditionally land, money, and titles passed through the female line. Only High Ranking Women (Queens) hand picked the High Chiefs. Clan lands continue to be passed through titled women and first daughters [5] but there is also a modern patrilineal sentiment introduced by imperial Japan. The Japanese government attempted to confiscate and redistribute tribal land into personal ownership during World War II, and there has been little attempt to restore the old order. Legal entanglements continue amongst the various clans.

European contact and discovery in 1696

Manila Galleon in the Marianas and Carolinas, c. 1590 Boxer Codex Reception of the Manila Galleon by the Chamorro in the Ladrones Islands, ca. 1590.jpg
Manila Galleon in the Marianas and Carolinas, c. 1590 Boxer Codex

There still is a debate whether the islands were or were not seen by some of the early European discoverers in the 16th century. Historians take note of the early navigational routes of European explorers in the Pacific. There is disagreement as to whether Spaniard Ruy López de Villalobos, who landed in several Caroline Islands, spotted the Palau archipelago in 1543. No conclusive evidence exists, but some believe he could have seen the tip of a southernmost island in the group.

View of part of the town of Pelew, and the place of Council, 1788 View of part of the town of Pelew cph.3b32619.jpg
View of part of the town of Pelew, and the place of Council, 1788

Nevertheless, the true and conscious discovery of Palau came a century later in December 1696, when a group of islanders shipwrecked on the Philippines island of Samar. They were interviewed by the Czech missionary Paul Klein on 28 December 1696. Klein was not only able to draw the first map of Palau based on a drawing and a set of pebbles on the beach but also to send an important letter in June 1697 [6] to Europe. This map and the letter caused a vast interest in the new islands and resulted in the first and failed Jesuit attempts to travel to Palau from the Philippines in 1700, 1708 and 1709. [1]

The islands were first visited by the Jesuit expedition led by Francisco Padilla on 30 November 1710, only to leave two stranded priests Jacques Du Beron and Joseph Cortyl on the coast of Sonsorol, while the mother ship Santissima Trinidad was being swept away by a storm. [1] Spain later started to dominate the islands.

Palau had also limited relations with the exterior before the 18th century, mainly with Yap and Java. Had it not been for shipwrecked islanders who took refuge in the Philippines in 1696, Europeans likely would not have found Palau until much later.

Englishman Henry Wilson, captain of the East India Company's packet ship Antelope, was shipwrecked off the island of Ulong in 1783. The High Chief of (Koror) Palau allowed Captain Wilson to take his son, Prince Lee Boo, to England, where he arrived in 1784. However, the prince died soon after of smallpox. The East India Company erected a monument over his grave in St Mary's Churchyard, Rotherhithe. It was Wilson who gave the archipelago the name "Pelew Islands".

Spanish rule

Aba Thule, King of Palau, 1883 HH1883 pg141 Aba Thule, Konig von Palao.jpg
Aba Thule, King of Palau, 1883
Map of 1888 showing the Spanish East Indies, including Palau Islands (map without Philippines) Islas Marianas Palaos y Carolinas.JPG
Map of 1888 showing the Spanish East Indies, including Palau Islands (map without Philippines)

In the late 19th century, possession of the islands was claimed by Britain, Spain, and Imperial Germany. In 1885, the matter was brought to Pope Leo XIII for a decision. The Pope recognized the Spanish claim, but granted economic concessions to Britain and Germany. Palau then became part of the Spanish East Indies, along with the Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands. and the rest of the Caroline Islands. They were all administered from the Philippines.

After being defeated in 1898 in the Spanish–American War and losing possession of the Philippine Islands, Spain sold the Palau archipelago to Imperial Germany in the 1899 German–Spanish Treaty. [7] [8]

German era

Palau during German colonization: painting by Rudolf Hellgrewe, from Das Buch von unseren Kolonien by Ottomar Beta (Leipzig, 1908) Palau-Inseln.jpg
Palau during German colonization: painting by Rudolf Hellgrewe, from Das Buch von unseren Kolonien by Ottomar Beta (Leipzig, 1908)
Koror chiefs in 1915 Koror chiefs in 1915.jpg
Koror chiefs in 1915

Palau was administered from German New Guinea, and a period of economic development began. German engineers began exploiting the islands' deposits of bauxite and phosphate, and a rich harvest in copra was made.

Japanese mandate

Koror during the Japanese Mandate Koror in the Japanese Period.JPG
Koror during the Japanese Mandate
The Headquarters of the South Pacific Mandate The Headquarters of the South Pacific Mandate.JPG
The Headquarters of the South Pacific Mandate

Under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Empire of Japan declared war on the German Empire in 1914 and invaded German colonial empire in the Pacific Ocean. Palau was seized by ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy. After the war, the League of Nations awarded Palau to Japan as a Class C League of Nations Mandate. [9]

Japan incorporated the islands as an integral part of its empire, establishing the Nanyo-cho government with Koror Island as the capital. [10] From 1914 to 1922, the Japanese Imperial Navy had been in control. Civilian control was introduced from 1922, and Palau was one of six administrative districts within the Mandate. Japan mounted an aggressive economic development program and promoted large scale immigration by Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans. Native Palauans soon became a small minority in their own homeland. The Japanese continued the German mining activities, and also established bonito (skipjack tuna) canning and copra processing plants in Palau.

World War II

The Japanese presence made Palau a major target for the Allied forces in World War II. Peleliu was a scene of intense fighting between American and Japanese forces in 1944. The battle ended in an Allied victory, but at a high cost for both sides. Indeed, the world history recognizes the high cost of dead soldiers from both countries but totally ignored the numbers of dead innocent islanders who never asked to have countries come fight on their small island disrupting the peaceful life they enjoyed for centuries before history books states that these islands were discovered (It would be great acknowledgement to note that Palau was never lost as it was always there in the first place). At the end of the Pacific War, less than five thousand Palauans were left alive with many Palauan families adopting Japanese children into their midst (those refused passage back to Japan as they were too young and dangerous to travel). All surviving Japanese were repatriated after the end of the war. There are still about 100 American servicemen listed as Missing In Action in Palau. Starting in 1993, a small group of American volunteers called The BentProp Project has searched the waters and jungles of Palau for information that could lead to the identification and recovery of these remains. The Palauan people, in recognition of the basic human hospitality that is unique to all people of the islands all over the planet, allowed the Japanese and US governments to search for their missing soldiers as well as bringing back their remains.

Post-war development

Palau Museum Bai in 1970s Palau Museum Bai in 1970s.jpg
Palau Museum Bai in 1970s
"Vote No" sign, Micronesian constitutional referendum in Palau, 1979 Vote No sign, Micronesian constitutional referendum in Palau.jpg
"Vote No" sign, Micronesian constitutional referendum in Palau, 1979

In 1947, the United Nations decided the United States would administer Palau as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1979, Palauans voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and the Marianas (except Guam) because of language and cultural differences. A long period of transition occurred between 1979 and 1994, specifically in the capital, Koror, on the topic of relations with the United States. After a long period of transition, including the violent deaths of two presidents (Haruo Remeliik in 1985 and Lazarus Salii in 1988), Palau voted in 1994 to freely associate with the United States while retaining independence under the Compact of Free Association.

The New Capitol in Palau Capitol-complex-melekeok-palau20071220 crop.jpg
The New Capitol in Palau

See also

Related Research Articles

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Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. The country contains approximately 340 islands, and together with parts of the Federated States of Micronesia, forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands. Its area is 466 square kilometers (180 sq mi). The most populous island is Koror. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with the Philippines, Indonesia and Micronesia.

Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands United Nations trust territory in the western Pacific administered by the United States from 1947 to 1986

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Caroline Islands archipelago

The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea. Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern part of the group, and Palau at the extreme western end. Historically, this area was also called Nuevas Filipinas or New Philippines as they were part of the Spanish East Indies and governed from Manila in the Philippines.

Peleliu State in Palau

Peleliu is an island in the island nation of Palau. Peleliu, along with two small islands to its northeast, forms one of the sixteen states of Palau. The island is notable as the location of the Battle of Peleliu in World War II.

Angaur State in Palau

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Babeldaob island

Babeldaob is the largest island in the island nation of the Republic of Palau. It is in the western Caroline Islands, and the second largest island in the Micronesia region of Oceania. Palau's capital, Ngerulmud, is located on Babeldaob, in Melekeok State.

South Pacific Mandate former country

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Kapingamarangi atoll of the Federated States of Micronesia.

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Roman Tmetuchl Palauan politician and businessman

Roman Tmetuchl was a Palauan political leader and businessman. He grew up in Japanese-controlled Palau and joined the Kempeitai, the Japanese secret police, during World War II. After the war, he became the leader of Palau's Liberal Party. He worked in the Congress of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1964 to 1978 and advocated for Palau gaining a separate status from the rest of Micronesia. He became governor of Airai and engaged in three unsuccessful Palauan presidential campaigns. As a businessman, Tmetuchl led several construction projects for his business holdings and for the Palauan community, including the Palau International Airport and a Seventh-Day Adventist clinic.

Index of Palau-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the Republic of Palau.

There is a small Japanese community in Palau, which mainly consists of Japanese expatriates residing in Palau over a long-term basis. A few Japanese expatriates started to reside in Palau after it gained independence in 1994, and established long-term businesses in the country. Japanese settlement in Palau dates back to the early 19th century, although large scale Japanese migration to Palau did not occur until the 1920s, when Palau came under Japanese rule and administered as part of the South Pacific Mandate. Japanese settlers took on leading administrative roles in the Japanese colonial government, and developed Palau's economy. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, virtually all of the Japanese population was repatriated back to Japan, although people of mixed Japanese-Palauan descent were allowed to remain behind. People of Japanese-Palauan descent constitute a large minority of Palau's population as a result of substantial intermarriage between the Japanese settlers and Palauans. They generally identify with, conforming to cultural norms and daily lives with the Palauans.

Ethnic Chinese have been settling in Palau in small numbers since the 19th century. The early settlers consisted of traders and labourers, and often intermarried with Palauan women. Their offspring quickly assimilated with the local populace and generally identify themselves as Palauan. In recent years, Palau has seen a growing expatriate business community from Taiwan, after Palau established formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1999.

Sonsorol State in Palau

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The sport of baseball is widely played in Palau, having been introduced by the Japanese during their occupation of the island nation. The highest level of league play in Palau in represented by Palau Major League (PML), which is overseen by the Belau Baseball Federation. The country is represented in international play by the Palau national baseball team.

Postage stamps and postal history of Palau

This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Palau.

Japan–Palau relations Diplomatic relations between Japan and the Republic of Palau

The Japan–Palau relations refers to the diplomatic relations between Japan and Palau. Japan has an embassy in Koror while Palau has an embassy in Tokyo.

Federated States of Micronesia–Spain relations

Federated States of Micronesia–Spain relations are the bilateral and diplomatic relations between these two countries. Micronesia established diplomatic relations with Spain on May 11 of 1992. Spain does not have an embassy in Micronesian territory, but it has an ambassador from this country located in Manila, Philippines.

Palau–Spain relations

Palau–Spain relations are the bilateral and diplomatic relations between these two countries. Palau currently has no diplomatic or consular representation in Spain. But Spain has a consulate in Koror, while the embassy representing Spain for Palau is installed in Manila, Philippines.


  1. 1 2 3 Francis X. Hezel, SJ. "Catholic Missions in the Carolines and Marshall Islands" . Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  2. "United States Department of State Palau Archives". United States Department of State. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  3. Lee R. Berger, Steven E. Churchill, Bonita De Klerk1, Rhonda L. Quinn (March 2008). "Small-Bodied Humans from Palau, Micronesia". PLoS ONE . 3 (3): e1780. Bibcode:2008PLoSO...3.1780B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001780. PMC   2268239 . PMID   18347737.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. "About Palau | Palau travel guides | Journeum". www.journeum.com. Retrieved 2018-01-04.
  5. Palau National Communications Corporation
  6. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Q-6StnGKAIQC&pg=PR132&dq=pablo+clain+carta&hl=en&sa=X&ei=L-6-VMXTNovq8gW52ICQDg&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=pablo%20clain%20carta&f=false Los siete principes de los Angeles: validos del Rey del cielo. Misioneros, y protectores de la Tierra, con la practica de su deuocion Andres Serrano ((S.I.)), 1707
  7. Sandafayre.com on Palauan history
  8. United States Department of State article on Palau
  9. Peatty, 'Nan'Yo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia
  10. Beasley, Japanese Imperialism