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A Short History of Virgin Islands, British




The British territory of the Virgin Islands has a long history. First inhabited by the Arawaks from South America in 100 BC and then by the Caribbean Indians, it was settled by the Dutch in 1648, annexed by England in 1672, became part of the British colony for a long period until 1960, gained its autonomy in 1967, and had its status changed to an overseas territory in 2002.

Looking back to its early times, the Arawaks inhabited the territory for long years until they were displaced by the Caribs, a tribe from the Antilles Islands in 15th century before it was claimed by the Spanish empire in the early part of 16th century. In subsequent years, the English, Dutch, French, Spanish and Danish fought for control of the islands until the Dutch established a permanent settlement on Tortola Island, which was later captured by Englishmen in 1672. By the time the British annexed Anegada and Virgin Gorda Islands, the Danish had veered away from the territory, gaining control instead of the nearby islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix, which were bought by the United States in 1917 and renamed them US Virgin Islands. The British islands, meanwhile, prospered economically with sugar cane as their main crop planted by African slaves, but the same economy started to decline into the middle of 1800 when slavery was abolished, a series of destructive hurricanes hit the islands, and the sugar beet crop was grown in Europe and the US. By the time that the territory became autonomous in 1967, it was starting to diversify from agriculture-based economy into tourism and financial services, when tourists began to grow in number and offshore financial companies wanted to operate in the islands.

A new Constitution was adopted in 2007, bolstering the status of the islands as an autonomous territory.

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