The first Lapita settlers settled in Fiji around 1500 B.C. Most of the Lapita are from other parts of Melanesia. Initially they were coastal fishing people, but a shift in emphasis towards agriculture around 500 B.C. had a dramatic increase in population and tribal feudalism.
In 1000 A.D. the Polynesians invaded from Tonga and Samoa. They engaged the Melanesians in large scale wars. Cannibalism was common and people lived in mataqali whitch are extended family groups, in fortified villages presided over by polygamous hereditary chiefs. Intertribal marriages were an important way of binding communities together, but rivalries and disputes were common and interclan warfare often pitted family members against one another.
The first known man to sight the Fijian islands was an European named Abel Tasman who passed by on his way to Indonesia in 1643. Abel negotiated the treacherous reefs northwest of Vanua Levu and Taveuni, his accounts of the dangers kept other sailors away from Fijian waters for another 130 years. James Cook was next sailor to visit the Fijian islands when he stopped at Vatoa in the Lau Group in 1774. In 1789 fifteen years later William Bligh dropped in under some duress after the mutineers of the HMS Bounty set him and 18 man crew adrift in a tiny open boat.
Post-independence politics came to be dominated by the Alliance Party of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. The election on March 1977, the Indian led opposition won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, but failed to form a government out of concern that indigenous Fijians would not accept Indo-Fijian leadership. On April 1987, a coalition led by Dr. Timoci Bavadra, an ethnic Fijian supported by the Indo-Fijian community, won the general election and formed Fiji's first majority Indian government, with Dr. Bavadra serving as Prime Minister. Less than a month later, Dr. Bavadra was forcibly removed from power during a military coup led by Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka on May 14, 1987.