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A Month of: Brief Histories of British Empire Territories – Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is not only one of the world’s least explored countries it is also one of the most culturally diverse, with for example c. 841 different recorded languages.

The Colony of Queensland, in 1883, desired to annex the southern half of eastern New Guinea. In turn the southern coast and its adjacent islands became a British protectorate in November 1884. On September 4th 1888, the protectorate was annexed outright becoming British New Guinea.papu-LMAP-md

Europe’s desire for coconut oil led to German interest in the northern quarter of the island. In 1884, the German Empire formally took possession of the region and put the administration into the hands of the chartered trading company, the German New Guinea Company. The German imperial government assumed direct control of the territory in 1899. The region was now known as German New Guinea.

British New Guinea was placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1902. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Australian troops occupied German New Guinea and remained under Australian military control until the end of the war.

Under the League of Nations, New Guinea was mandated to the Commonwealth of Australia until the Japanese invasion in December 1941, where much of the territory was occupied by Japanese forces. The region was retaken by Australian and American forces during the final months of the Second World War.

New Guinea gained its independence from Australia, as an arm of the British Empire, in 1975 when a peaceful independence occurred on September 16th under the watchful eye of the United Nations. While close ties remain and it is still a Commonwealth realm, actual executive powers lies in the hands of the Prime Minister.

Today, many people still live in extreme poverty.


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