Solomon Islands is a sovereign state consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu and covering a land area of 28400 km2. The country's capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal. The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (part of Papua New Guinea), but excludes outlying islands, such as Rennell and Bellona, and the Santa Cruz Islands.
The islands have been inhabited for thousands of years. In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit them, naming them the Islas Salomón. Britain defined its area of interest in the Solomon Islands archipelago in June 1893, when Captain Gibson R.N., of, declared the southern Solomon Islands a British protectorate. During World War II, the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) saw fierce fighting between the United States and the Empire of Japan, such as in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The official name of the then British administration was changed from "the British Solomon Islands Protectorate" to "the Solomon Islands" in 1975, and self-government was achieved the year after. Independence was obtained in 1978 and the name changed to just "Solomon Islands", without the "the". At independence, Solomon Islands became a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Solomon Islands is Elizabeth II, represented by her governor-general, Sir Frank Kabui. The prime minister is Rick Houenipwela.
In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit the Solomon Islands archipelago, naming it Islas Salomón ("Solomon Islands") after the wealthy biblical King Solomon. It is said that they were given this name in the mistaken assumption that they contained great riches, and he believed them to be the Bible-mentioned city of Ophir.
During most of the period of British rule the territory was officially named "the British Solomon Islands Protectorate". On 22 June 1975 the territory was renamed "the Solomon Islands". When Solomon Islands became independent in 1978, the name was changed to "Solomon Islands". The definite article, "the", is not part of the country's official name but is sometimes used, both within and outside the country.