Named by its first European visitors as Pleasant Island, Nauru is an island of extraordinary history and contrasts.
Lying some 42 kilometres south of the Equator at a longitude of 166o55' east, the island of Nauru - an uplifted coral formation - is about 21 kilometres square and home to one of the smallest nations on earth.
Nauru shares an overwhelming geographic isolation with her scattered island neighbours. The most immediate neighbour is Australia, over 4,000 kilometres away.
Despite its small size and isolation, Nauru's story is one of monumental dimensions. Colonial annexation, world war, the discovery of phosphate and a century's worth of mining have moulded a nation with a distinct history facing a unique future.
Due to its isolation, Nauru had remained free from European influence for longer than other larger Pacific Islands. When named by the first Europeans to visit Nauru in 1798 as Pleasant Island, Nauru was an island of lush tropical vegetation and friendly indigenous inhabitants. Early visitors were mainly whalers and then later traders in search of treasures of the Pacific.
In the late 19 century, Germany and Britain expanded their empires causing friction between the two in the Pacific. As a result, the region was divided into two spheres of influence by the imperial powers - Nauru falling under the German sphere of interest. The Berlin Anglo-German Convention that carved this invisible line across the Pacific was to shape Nauru's future with great effect.
Typically for German colonial administration at the time, a large German trading company, Jaluit Gesellshaft, made major contributions in financing Germany's occupation of the region and in return received a number of economic privileges including the right to explore guano deposits in the Marshall Islands and in Nauru. In 1888, these were not thought to be of any great value.
In 1900, a British company discovered phosphate on nearby Ocean Island (Banaba) and Nauru - the latter quite by accident. The British company persuaded Britain to annex Banaba and negotiated with Jaluit Gesellschaft for rights to the phosphates on Nauru.
In 1907, mining began and, apart from time during the World War II, has continued virtually uninterrupted. This resource is now almost depleted.
Nauru was seized from Germany by Australian troops at the beginning of the First World War and fell under British control; In 1920 the island became a 'C' Class Mandate under the League of Nations and was officially administered by Britain, Australia and New Zealand and the United Kingdom in a partnership similar to that of the 'C' Class Mandate.
In the 1950's Nauruans became increasingly active on issues of independence and began to share a greater voice in the administration of the island. In 1968, the United Nations Trusteeship was terminated and Nauru became an independent Republic with a Westminster style government established by the Constitution.
In that same year, Nauru became
a Special Member of the Commonwealth and was then accepted as a Full Member of
the Commonwealth in 1999.