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An island country bordering the Tonga Trench in the South Pacific Ocean.


Tonga comprises over 150 islands, most of them too small for habitation and even the largest, Tongatapu, measuring a mere 40 km (25 miles) by 16 km (10 miles). Some are coral and some volcanic, with active craters.


Oil has been discovered, the only other natural resource being a fertile soil, used for the cultivation of coconuts and bananas. Tourism and fishing are important.


Austronesian‐speaking peoples inhabited the islands from at least 1000 bc. By the 13th century Tongans ruled islands as far flung as Hawaii. Named the Friendly Islands by Captain James Cook, who visited them in 1773, the country was soon receiving missionaries. King George Tupou I (1845–93) unified the nation and gave it a constitution. In 1900 his son signed a treaty, making the islands a self‐governing British protectorate. During World War II Queen Sālote Tupou III (1900–65) placed the island's resources at the disposal of the Allies; she was succeeded by her son, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, in 1965. In 1968 British controls were reduced, and in 1970 Tonga became independent within the Commonwealth of Nations. Tonga's first political party was founded in 1994, with an agenda for democratic reform of the constitution.




749.9 sq km (289.5 sq miles)


98,600 (2005)


1 pa'anga = 100 seniti


Free Wesleyan 43%; Roman Catholic 16%; Mormon 12.1%; Free Church of Tonga 11%; Church of Tonga 7.3%; other 10.6%

Ethnic Groups:

Tongan 95.5%


Tongan, English (both official)

International Organizations:

UN; Commonwealth; Pacific Islands Forum; Secretariat of the Pacific Community

Subjects: World History.

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