General issues: French overseas territory 1958-1984, French overseas territory/Self government 1984-2003, French collectivity 2003-Present
Country name on general issues: Polynésie Française
Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes 1958-Present
Population: 78 100 in 1958, 282 700 in 2015
Political history French Polynesia
French Polynesia is located in the south central Pacific Ocean. As a political entity, French Polynesia consists of a number of island groups, including the Society Islands, the Tuamoto Archipelago, the Marquesas Islands, the Gambier Islands and the Austral Islands. The indigenous population is Polynesian. The first Europeans to explore the islands were the Portuguese and the Spanish in the 16th century. British, Dutch and French explorers visited different islands at different times in the 18th century. The French were the first to establish a lasting presence when they annexed the Marquesas Islands as a French colony in 1842. Later the same year, the French proclaimed a protectorate over the kingdom of Tahiti, which comprised the windward group of the Society Islands, the Tuamoto Archipelago and part of the Austral Islands. In 1880, the kingdom of Tahiti was annexed to become a French colony. The other islands that are now part of French Polynesia were annexed between 1881 and 1901.
The kingdom of Tahiti went by the name of ‘Tahiti & Dependencies’, while the French possessions, as a whole, went by the name of ‘Établissements de l’Oceanie’‘Settlements in Oceania’. In 1903, the name of the colony was changed to ‘Établissements Français de l’Oceanie’. In 1946, French Oceania became a French overseas territory and was granted a ‘Territorial Assembly’ – a first step towards future self government. In 1957, the name of the territory was changed from ‘Établissements Français de l’Oceanie’ to ‘Polynésie Française’‘French Polynesia’. French Polynesia gradually moved towards self government, which was granted in 1984. The status changed to that of a French overseas collectivity in 2003 – designated an overseas country since 2004.
In 1962, the island of Moruroa was designated as the site for French nuclear testing. The first test was conducted in 1966 – the last in 1996. The tests led to major international protests.
Economically, French Polynesia long depended on subsistence agriculture, fishing and manufacturing. Exports included copra – derived from coconuts, vanilla, pearl oysters and pearls. The services sector developed in the second part of 20th century and is now the largest sector in the economy – tourism being the most important sub-sector. The population majority is Polynesian with minorities of European and Chinese descent.
The first stamps used in French Polynesia were the general issues for the French colonies from 1862. The first stamps issued for specific use in French Polynesia were the issues for Tahiti, issued between 1882 and 1893. The first stamps for French Oceania appeared in 1892. The stamps of French Oceania were superseded by those of French Polynesia in 1958. The issues of French Polynesia, mostly, have themes of national interest.