Bismarck Archipelago

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The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of islands off the coast of New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, named in honour of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck and belonging to Papua New Guinea.

The archipelago includes mostly volcanic islands, the most important of which are:

According to James Belich, the Bismarcks were probably the original Polynesian Hawaiki or place of origin. The first inhabitants of the archipelago were the Lapita, thought to be Melanasian proto-Polynesians. From the Bismarks the ancestors of the Polynesians spread to the Society Islands, then to Tonga and Samoa, and then on to islands in the northern, southern and western Pacific.

The first European to find the islands was Dutch explorer Willem Schouten in 1616, but they remained unsettled by Europeans until they became part of the German protectorate of German New Guinea in 1884.

Following the outbreak of World War I, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force seized the islands in 1914 and Australia later received a League of Nations mandate to govern the islands. They remained under Australian control; interrupted only by Japanese occupation during World War II; until Papua New Guinea became independent in 1975.


  • James Belich. 1996, 2001. Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Cloth, ISBN 0824818903. Paper, ISBN 0824825170. Pp. 17-19
  • Patrick V. Kirch, Ed., 2001. Lapita and its Transformations in Near Oceania: Archaeological Investigations in the Mussau Islands, Papua New Guinea, 1985-88. Volume I. Berkeley: University of California. ISBN 188274411X.
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