Solomon Islands is a sovereign state consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu and covering a land area of 28,400 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi). The country has a population of 652,858 and its 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 (a part of Papua New Guinea), but excludes outlying islands, such as Rennell and Bellona, and the Santa Cruz Islands.
The islands have been settled since at least 30,000–28,800 BC, with later waves of migrants, notably the Lapita people, mixing and producing the modern indigenous Solomon Islanders population. In 1568, the Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana was the first European to visit them, naming them the Islas Salomon. Mendana returned decades later in 1595 and another Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queiros visited the Solomons in 1606. Britain defined its area of interest in the Solomon Islands archipelago in June 1893, when Captain Gibson R.N., of HMS Curacoa, 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, Commonwealth forces 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 following year. Independence was obtained, and the name changed to just "Solomon Islands" (without the definite article), in 1978. At independence, Solomon Islands became a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Solomon Islands is Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General.