HISTORY. The first European discovery of the Fiji Islands was by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in 1643, and they were recorded in detail by Capt. Bligh after the mutiny of the Bounty (1789). In the 19th century the search for sandalwood, in which enormous profits were made, brought many ships. The influence of the deserters, shipwrecked sailors and missionaries who settled on the islands disrupted the pattern of life of the indigenous Fijians and gave rise to inter-tribal wars until Fiji was ceded to Britain on 10 Oct. 1874. Fiji became an independent state within the Commonwealth on 10 Oct. 1970. Following the electoral defeat of the Fijian-dominated National Alliance Party by an Indian-supported coalition in April 1987, Brig. Sitiveni Rabuka seized power after two coups, and declared Fiji a republic in Oct.; membership of the Commonwealth lapsed.
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