History of the Marshall Islands
500 BC - 2000 BC (approx.) - The first Micronesian navigators arrive in the Marshalls, calling the atolls Aelon Kein Ad (Our Islands). Dates and origins of the settlers are still uncertain. While controversial, archeological finds on Bikini Atoll in the late 1980s were carbon dated to 2000 years BC, suggesting that people may have settled the Marshalls as long as 4,000 years ago.
1494 - The Treaty of Tordesillas cedes ownership of all of Micronesia to Spain.
1529 - Seeking a western route to the "Spice Islands," Spaniard Alvaro Saavedra becomes the first European to "discover" the Marshalls.
1788 - The area now known as the RMI was given its name by British Naval Captain William Marshall, who sailed through the area on the Scarborough while transporting convicts for New South Wales between Botany Bay and Cathay.
1857 - Rev. Hiram Bingham, Jr. of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) creates missionary outpost on Ebon.
1860s - Adolph Capelle builds first large-scale trading company in the Marshalls. Several German trading firms begin operations in the Marshalls soon thereafter.
1878 - Captain von Werner of the German Navy enters into a treaty with inhabitants of the Ralik chain, granting special trade privileges.
1885 - Under mediation of Pope Leo XIII, German government annexes the Marshalls with compensation to Spain in the amount of $4.5 million.
1886 - Germany establishes a protectorate over the Marshalls.
1887 - Formation of the Jaluit Company, a German entity entrusted with governance of the Marshalls.
1898 - Germany receives ownership of the disputed atolls of Ujelang and Enewetak as a result of the end of the Spanish-American War.
1914 - The Marshalls are captured from Germany by Japan.
1920 - League of Nations grants a mandate to Japan to administer the RMI.
1934 - Japan withdraws from the League, but retains possession of the Marshalls. Fortification of the Marshall Islands begins as Japan prepares for war. The islands of Mili, Jaluit, Maloelap, Wotje and Kwajalein are developed into bases, forming a north-south line of defense in the Marshalls.
1943 - Allied invasion of the Marshalls begins.
1944 - Allied occupation of the Marshalls.
1945 - End of World War II grants effective control to the U.S.
1946 - U.S. begins its nuclear testing program in the Marshalls. Bikini atoll is evacuated for first tests under Operation Crossroads.
1947 - The RMI becomes one of six entities in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) established by the United Nations with the U.S. as the Trustee.
1948 - U.S. expands its testing program to include Enewetak atoll.
1951 - US Department of the Interior assumes responsibility within US Government for the TTPI from the Department of the Navy.
1952 - The first hydrogen device under the US testing program in the Marshalls is fired on Enewetak.
1954 - US nuclear testing program detonates Bravo, the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever tested by the U.S., on Bikini atoll. Radiation from the test forces evacuation of Marshallese and U.S. Military personnel on Rongelap, Rongerik, Utirik and Ailinginae.
1957 - The last of those evacuated, the Rongelapese, are allowed to return to their island. Fearing further contamination, they leave several years later.
1965 - The Congress of Micronesia is formed, with representatives from all of the TTPI islands. It is created by the U.S. administration in preparation for greater self-governance by Micronesians.
1978 - Marshall Islands Constitutional Convention adopts the nation's first constitution.
1979 - Government of the Marshall Islands officially established, and country becomes self-governing.
1982 - Official name changed to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
1983 - Voters in the RMI approve the Compact of Free Association with the United States.
1986 - U.S. Congress approves the Compact, resulting in its entry into force. The Compact grants the RMI its sovereignty and provides for aid and US defense of the islands in exchange for continued US military use of the missile testing range at Kwajalein Atoll.
1990 - UN Security Council terminates the RMI's Trusteeship status.
1991 - RMI joins the United Nations.
2003 - RMI and US governments renegotiate economic and other provisions of the Compact of Free Association.
"The Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States: A Strategic Partnership"
The History of the RMI's Bilateral Relationship with the United States
Exhibit photographs courtesy of: