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Tonga, History

George Tupou, Dutch explorers, Friendly Islands, stratified society, current monarch

The Tongan Islands were probably settled from Fiji about 3,500 years ago. Tonga developed as a highly stratified society with social classes and paramount chiefs. Warfare was common as chiefs competed to expand their respective domains.

In 1616 Dutch explorers became the first Europeans to visit Tonga. They were followed by the British explorer Captain James Cook, who made three visits between 1773 and 1777; Cook named Tonga the Friendly Islands, due to the welcome he received. Wesleyan Methodist missionaries arrived from England in the 1820s and began a successful conversion of the islanders. The missionaries converted paramount chief Taufa’ahau Tupou in the 1830s and he persuaded others to follow. Tupou, who became known as George Tupou I, consolidated three chiefly lines and founded the monarchy in 1875. Upon his death, he was succeeded by his grandson, George Tupou II. Owing to internal strife on the islands, Tonga and the United Kingdom negotiated a Treaty of Friendship and Protection in 1900, establishing Tonga as a British Protected State. Great Britain had great influence over the kingdom for the next seven decades, but the country was never formally colonized. When Tupou II died in 1918, his daughter Queen Salote Tupou III succeeded to the throne. She in turn was succeeded by her son, the current monarch, King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. On June 4, 1970, Tonga became completely independent of the United Kingdom.

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Article key phrases:

George Tupou, Dutch explorers, Friendly Islands, stratified society, current monarch, monarchy, Warfare, social classes, great influence, Europeans, throne, grandson, Great Britain, Fiji, death, England, visits, islanders, turn, decades, United Kingdom, country, years, welcome, Protection


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