Although discovered by the Dutch and the British in the 17th and 18th
centuries, it was the French who declared a protectorate over the islands
The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica wrote, "It was placed under
the French protectorate on the 5th of April 1887, and connected for administrative
purposes with New Caledonia by decree of the 27th of November 1888. There
is a French Resident in the islands, which are connected by a regular service
with Noumea, New Caledonia. The principalislands are Uvea, of volcanic
formation and surrounded with coral, and Nukuatea. The islands were discovered
by Samuel Wallis in 1767, and it was a missionary, Father Bataillon; who
in 1837 first brought the influence of France to bear on the natives. These,
about 4500 in number, are of Polynesian race, gentle and industrious. The
tradeof the islands is mainly with Samoa, whence cottons and iron goods
are imported, and to which copra and roots are exported. The Horne Islands
(Fotuna and Alofa), S.W. of the Wallis Islands, were discovered by Jacob
Lemaire and Willem Cornelis Schouten in 1616, and placed under the French
protectorate by decree of the 16th of February."
In 1959, the inhabitants of the islands voted to become a French overseas
territory. This became official on July 29th, 1961.
The economy is limited to traditional subsistence agriculture, with
about 80% labor force earnings from agriculture (coconuts and vegetables),
livestock (mostly pigs), and fishing. About 4% of the population is employed
in government. Revenues come from French Government subsidies, licensing
of fishing rights to Japan and South Korea, import taxes, and remittances
from expatriate workers in New Caledonia.