The precontact history of Lesu is unknown. The Lesu were localized on the east coast at the time of European contact. New Ireland was visited by Dutch, English, and French explorers and traders in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Germany controlled New Ireland as a colony from 1884 to 1914. During this period many Lesu were recruited to work on German and English plantations elsewhere on the island and on other islands, and a road was built with native labor along the east coast. These two developments brought the Lesu into more frequent contact both with Europeans and other New Ireland groups. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, missionaries entered New Ireland; the Lesu eventually were influenced most by Roman Catholic and Methodist missionaries. In 1914, New Ireland came under Australian control and remained so until 1942 when the island was occupied by Japan. Australia resumed control in 1945. In 1949 New Ireland became part of the Trust Territory of New Guinea and has been a province of the nation of Papua New Guinea since 1975.