Overseas country of France consisting of approximately 105 island s in the S Pacific Ocean. The five main groups are: the Gambier Island s, Marquesas Island s, Society Island s, Tuamotu Island s, and Tubuai, or Austral, Island s. Uninhabited Clipperton Island , 670 mi SW of Mexico, is administratively part of the territory. Tahiti is the most important island , and the capital of the territory is Papeete on Tahiti. Some of the island s are volcanic, while others are coral atolls. The inhabitants are mainly Polynesian, and tropical fruits and copra are the main products. European discovery of the island groups and individual island s extended over some 200 years, beginning with the Spanish Alvaro de Mendana de Neira, who reached part of the Marquesas group in 1595, and Pedro Fernand es de Queiros, a Portuguese pilot in Spanish service, who reached the Tuamotu group in 1606. The Society Island s were discovered by an Englishman, Samuel Wallis, in 1767 but were claimed the next year by the French explorer, Louis de Bougainville. Captain James Cook named them the Society Island s in 1769 after the Royal Society that had sponsored his voyage. The Gambier and Tubuai island s were first visited by the British.
The French laid claim to, and annexed, the island groups between 1842 and 1881. In 1903 all the groups were placed under a single administration as French Oceania, or Etablissements francais de l’Oceanie. In 1946 they were reorganized as an overseas territory and renamed French Polynesia. By a vote taken in 1957 the inhabitants chose to remain a part of the French Community with representation in the French parliament. Nuclear tests were carried out in the island s by France from 1966 to 1968. Many in the island s wanted more independence from France, and limited autonomy was awarded in 1984. In 2004, the territory became a French overseas territory.
France granted French Polynesia more autonomy in most local affairs and regional relations, but has retained control of law enforcement, defense, and the money supply.