The first settlers arrived in Vanuatu approx. 3,500 years ago, from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands by sea-going canoe. The islands (called the New Hebrides until 1980) have been populated for thousands or years. Pedro Fernandez de Quiros From Spain first discovered the islands in 1606. Captain Cook charted the islands in 1774 and commercial exploitation by Sandalwooders began in the 1820's
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, labour recruitment for Australia and missionary activity proved to be a disruptive combination. However, the second half of the ninetieth century saw the increase in European traders and planters.
From 1906 until 1980, Britain and France jointly ruled Vanuatu. At this point the Island, which was known as the New Hebrides had a name change on becoming an independent republic in 1980