The airport area to the east of Honiara was the site of a battle between the United States and the Japanese during the Guadalcanal Campaign in World War II, the Battle of Henderson Field of 1942, from which America emerged victorious.
After Honiara became the new capital of the British Protectorate of Solomon Islands in 1952 with the addition of many administrative buildings, the town began to develop and grow in population. Since the late 1990s, Honiara has suffered a turbulent history of ethnic violence and political unrest and is scarred by rioting.
A coup attempt in June 2000 resulted in violent rebellions and fighting between the ethnic Malaitans of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) and the Guadalcanal natives of the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM). Although a peace agreement was made in October 2000, violence ensued in the city streets in March 2002 when two diplomats from New Zealand and numerous others were murdered.
Conditions became so bad in Honiara that in July 2003 the Australian military and police units moved into the country to restore order. In 2006, riots broke out following the election of Snyder Rini as prime minister, destroying a part of Chinatown and making more than 1,000 Chinese residents homeless. The riots devastated the town and tourism in the city and the islands was severely affected.
Honiara contains the majority of the major government buildings and institutions of Solomon Islands. The National Parliament of Solomon Islands, Honiara Solomon Islands College of Higher Education, International School in Honiara and University of the South Pacific Solomon Islands are located in Honiara as is the national museum and Honiara Market.
Politically Honiara is divided into three parliamentary constituencies, electing three of the 50 members of the National Parliament. These constituencies, East Honiara, Central Honiara and West Honiara, are three of only six constituencies in the country to have an electorate of over 10,000 people.
Honiara is predominantly Christian and is served by the headquarters of the Church of the Province of Melanesia (Anglican), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Honiara, the South Seas Evangelical Church, the United Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and other Christian churches.