General issues: British administration 1916-1924, Australian mandated territory 1924-1942, Australian trust territory 1954-1968, Republic 1968-Present
Country name on general issues: Nauru
Special issues: North West Pacific Islands/Australian administration 1915-1916
Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1916-1966, 1 Dollar = 100 Cents 1966-Present
Population: 2 000 in 1915, 9 500 in 2015
Political history Nauru
Nauru is located in the western Pacific Ocean. The indigenous population – the Nauruans – are of Micronesian and Polynesian descent. The first European to explore the island was the British captain John Fearn in 1798. Just prior to colonization, the population was organized into twelve clans – clans that were in a state of civil war since 1878. By an agreement between Great Britain and Germany, Germany proclaimed a protectorate over the island in 1886. The Germans effectively colonized Nauru in 1888, ending the war among the clans. Administratively, Nauru was attached to the German Marshall Islands – at the time administered by the German Jaluit Company.The Jaluit Company was a chartered company that administered the German Marshall Islands between 1888 and 1906. In 1906, the administration of the Marshall Islands – including Nauru – was transferred to the colonial administration of German New Guinea.
At the outbreak of WWI, German rule came to an end – Nauru was occupied by Australian forces in 1914. The administration of Nauru was transferred to the British in 1916, pending negotiations between Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain about the future of the island. In 1919, parties reached an agreement and – based on this agreement – Nauru became a League of Nations mandated territory in 1923. De jure Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain were the mandatees, but de facto Nauru came to be administered by Australia. During WWII, Nauru was occupied by Japan between 1942 and 1945. A significant part of the population was deported – of which only part returned. In 1947, the United Nations established Nauru as a trust territory. Copying the former League of Nations arrangement, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain were the trustees with Australia effectively being responsible for the administration of the island.
In the 1960’s, Nauru moved towards independence – gaining self government in 1966 and full independence as the republic of Nauru in 1968. As such, Nauru has been a member of the British Commonwealth since 1969. Nauru is one of the smallest sovereign countries in the world. In terms of land area it ranks third after Monaco and Vatican City, and in terms of inhabitants it ranks second after Vatican City only.
Economically, the indigenous population depended on subsistence agriculture and fishing. The Jaluit Company initiated the development of coconut plantations for the production of copra – without much success. In 1900, phosphate was discovered in large deposits. Exploitation started in 1906 and became the mainstay of the economy. The exploitation was long in the hands of foreign companies. However, upon independence, exploitation came into the hands of Nauru itself and the proceeds of phosphate mining made Nauru one of the countries with the highest per capita GDP in the Pacific. In the early 2000’s, the tables turned. The primary deposits were depleted and Nauru more and more depended on the returns of a trust fund that had been set up earlier with the profits of the phosphate mining. Although secondary deposits have since been found, the Nauru government faces a major challenge in finding a new economic base for the country. The interior has become a wasteland, not suitable for habitation or agriculture due to the decades of mining.
The population is in majority Nauruan – 58%. People originating from other Pacific Islands, and people of Chinese and European descent form the other population groups.
Postal history Nauru
The first post office was opened on Nauru by the Germans in 1908 when Nauru was administered as part of the Marshall Islands. Thus the stamps issued for the Marshall Islands were the first to be used on Nauru. When Australia had taken possession of Nauru, they brought the stamps issued for the North West Pacific Islands into use from 1915. These stamps were issued with the intent to be used in all of the former German colonies in the western Pacific, but were effectively used only in New Guinea and Nauru as the other German possessions passed to Japan. When the administration of Nauru was transferred to the British in 1916, British stamps overprinted ‘Nauru’ were issued. These were used until 1924 when the first issues appeared for the mandated territory, administered by Australia. Resources used do not indicate if a postal service existed during the years of Japanese occupation. After WWII, stamps of Australia were used until the first issues for Nauru as a trust territory appeared in 1954. The achievement of self government is not reflected in stamps issued. The first stamps as a republic were issued in 1968. The stamps issued since 1968 are a blend of issues with themes of national interest and issues with themes aimed at the thematic collectors market.
For an overview of the political and postal developments in the form of a diagram, please refer to the country diagram of the North West Pacific.