The History of the British Virgin Islands
Prior to colonization by the British, the BVI belonged to the group of islands known as the Virgin Islands. The many islands found in the archipelago of Virgin Islands were first sighted by Christopher Columbus on 1493 and for being the first European to officially land on the islands, the Spanish made claim. Columbus named the Virgin Islands after the legend of Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes (Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins). It is said that while on a pilgrimage to Cologne, the virgins met their deaths at the hands of some over-zealous Huns.
The history of the British Virgin Islands begins as far back as 1500 BC. It is believed that the chain of Virgin Islands was first settled by the Arawak tribe from South America and they inhabited the islands up until the 15th century when they were displaced by the Caribs. The Caribs in the Virgin Islands were a more resistant and aggressive tribe; they drove the Arawaks from most of the Virgin Islands, leading to their extinction.
Following the discovery of the Virgin Islands (BVI) in 1493, no settlement was made by the Spanish and the islands were fought for by all main European nations - the Dutch, the British, the French, the Spanish and the Danish. The Virgin Islands were a very famous rendezvous for pirates where the layout of the over 100 (33 in the BVI) islands in the archipelago were perfect for hiding pirate treasure or goods stolen during pirate raids of passing ships. The numerous small islands attracted many names known in history; from the admirable Sir Francis Drake – the English navigator, explorer for historical expeditions over the world, to the notorious pirate Blackbeard.
After much territorial warfare, the BVI would see the first permanent settlements of the islands by the Dutch and in 1648 on the British Virgin Island of Tortola. The Dutch used the island as a base from which many of its attacks on both neighboring islands and other Virgin Islands were planned. Eventually, the English oust the Dutch, gaining a permanent foothold in Virgin Gorda and Tortola while the Dutch maintained control of the other main islands. It is thought that by this time, both the Arawaks and the Caribs were gone from the group of islands belonging to the BVI. In 1680, the British took over neighboring islands of Anegada and Virgin Gorda and incorporated into a single state.
The European settlers of these Virgin Islands were far more interested in the islands as strategic possession and a strategic sea highway with much importance, but the settlers on the BVI were left with no choice but to develop the islands through agriculture when it was favorable to provide a viable form of income. Sugar cane was introduced in the BVI by the British and this crop was the main source of trade and income for the British Empire. Slaves were sent from the very distant Africa to work on the plantations. The BVI sugar industry would prosper up until after the abolition of slavery in the 1800 and the introduction of cheaper produced beet sugar which led to the economic downslide of the BVI.
During the days of slavery on the BVI there were many uprisings by the slaves who outnumbered the whites on the islands. Between natural disasters such as hurricanes and constant resistance by the slaves in the BVI, many uprisings and plots to wipe out the white plantation owners and white settlers on the islands, there was much turmoil and the plantation industry was already beginning to suffer. In 1800 after the abolition of slavery by England, the whites fled the islands of the BVI, when many of the freed black bought out the plantations. This practice continued for many years in the British Virgin Islands, but in the early 20th century, harsh economic times forced many of the local population to emigrate. The BVI were unable to produce crops and could not sustain themselves. Later on, the Dutch sold sell their claim of islands to the US of america in 1917 for a whooping amount of US17 million dollars. Today, The BVi are a quite and sedentary islade compared to its moderna dn bsuy US neighbors.
Long after emancipation, the islands were continuously administered to as a British Leeward Island, and off and on in part with st. Kitts and Nevis… In 1960 separate colony statues was established for the islands of the BVI and the BVI became autonomous in 1967.