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History of Anguilla

Anguilla was first settled in pre-history by Amerindian tribes who migrated from South America. The date of European discovery is uncertain: some sources claim that Columbus sighted the island in 1493, while others state that the island was first discovered by the French in 1564 or 1565. The name Anguilla derives from the word for "eel" in any of various European (Romance) languages (Latin Anguilla, modern Spanish: anguila; French: anguille; Italian: anguilla), probably chosen because of the island's eel-like shape.

Anguilla was first colonised by English settlers from Saint Kitts, beginning in 1650. The island was administered by Britain until the early 19th century, when – against the wishes of the inhabitants – it was incorporated into a single British dependency, along with Saint Kitts and Nevis. After a brief period as a self-declared independent republic in 1969 it became a separate British dependency (now termed a British overseas territory) in 1980.

Pre-colonial history

The earliest inhabitants of Anguilla were Amerindian tribes from South America, commonly (if imprecisely) referred to as Arawaks, who travelled to the island on rafts and in dugout canoes, settling in fishing, hunting and farming groups. The Amerindian name for the island was "Malliouhana". The earliest Amerindian artefacts found on Anguilla have been dated to around 1300 BC, and remains of settlements dating from 600 AD. have been uncovered. Religious artefacts and remnants of ceremonies found at locations, such as Big Springs and Fountain Cavern, suggest that the pre-European inhabitants were extremely religious in nature. The Arawaks are popularly said to have been later displaced by fiercer Carib tribes, but this version of events is disputed by some [1].

Colonial period

The European discovery and naming of Anguilla is often credited to French explorer Pierre Laudonnaire who visited the island in 1565, though according to some it had been sighted and named by Columbus. Since the early days of colonisation, Anguilla had been administered by the British through Antigua, with Anguilla also having its own local council. In 1824, despite a famine, the settlers kept hanging on. In 1744 Anguillans invaded the French half of the neighbouring island of Saint Martin, holding it until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748). During continuing struggles between the British and the French for control in the Caribbean, the French made further attempts to invade Anguilla in 1745 and 1796 but these failed. Attempts were made to develop Anguilla into a plantation-based economy employing slaves transported from Africa, but the island's soil and climate were unfavourable and the plantations were largely unsuccessful. Slaves were permitted to leave the plantations and pursue their own interests, and, with the British abolition of slavery in the 1830s, many plantation owners returned to Europe, leaving Anguilla's community consisting largely of subsistence farmers and fishermen of African descent. At this time Anguilla's population is estimated to have fallen from a peak of around 10,000 to just 2,000.

Since the early Anguilla under the administrative control of Saint Kitts, later to become part of the colony of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla (Saint Christopher being an earlier name for Saint Kitts), itself a member of the Federal Colony of the Leeward Islands. Anguillans protested strongly at this arrangement, perceiving a lack of interest in their affairs on the part of the Saint Kitts administration, and several requests were made for the island to be ruled directly from Britain. These requests went unheeded however, and the Anguillans' discontent continued to simmer until finally brought to a head in the 1960s.

Recent history

On 27 February 1967, Britain granted the territory of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla the status of "associated state", with its own constitution and a considerable degree of self-government. Many Anguillans strenuously objected to the continuing political subservience to Saint Kitts, and on 30 May (known as Anguilla Day), the Saint Kitts police were evicted from the island. The provisional government requested United States administration, which was declined. On 11 July 1967 a referendum on Anguilla's secession from the fledgling state was held. The results were 1,813 votes for secession and 5 against. A separate legislative council was immediately declared.

Peter Adams served as the first Chairman of the Anguilla Island Council. After eight days of negotiation on Barbados, on July 31, Adams agreed to return Anguilla to the Anguilla-St. Kitts-Nevis federation, in exchange for granting Anguilla limited self-rule similar to that enjoyed by Nevis.[1] Adams agreed to support this pact in principle, but the Council rejected it, replacing Adams as Chairman with Ronald Webster.[2][3] In December 1967, two members of Britain's Parliament worked out an interim agreement by which for one year a British official would exercise basic administrative authority along with the Anguilla Council. Tony Lee took the position in January 1968, but by the end of the term no agreement have been reached on the long-term future of the island's government.

On February 7, 1969 Anguilla held a second referendum resulting in a vote of 1,739 to 4 against returning to association with Saint Kitts. At this point Anguilla declared itself an independent republic, with Webster again serving as Chairman. A new British envoy, William Whitlock, arrived on 11 March 1969 with a proposal for a new interim British administration. He was quickly expelled. On 19 March a contingent of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment plus 40 Metropolitan Police officers, peacefully landed on the island, ostensibly to "restore order". That autumn the troops left and Army engineers were brought in to improve the public works.

Tony Lee returned as Commissioner and in 1971 worked out another "interim agreement" with the islanders. Effectively Anguilla was allowed to secede from Saint Kitts and Nevis; however it was not until 19 December 1980 that Anguilla formally disassociated itself from Saint Kitts to become a separate British dependency. While Saint Kitts and Nevis went on to gain full independence from Britain in 1983, Anguilla still remains a British overseas territory.

In recent years Anguilla has become an up-market tourist destination, and tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy. Fishing is another important economic activity, and a financial services sector is also being developed. The modern population of Anguilla is largely of African descent, with a minority having European (mainly English) ancestry.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Anguilla goes back to union". The Modesto Bee. August 1, 1967. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Anguilla levels warning at force". The News and Courier. August 12, 1967. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ Berrellez, Robert (September 9, 1967). "Anguilla seeks permanent ally". The Leader-Post. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ Fodor's in Focus St. Maarten, St. Barths & Anguilla (First ed.). Fodor's. 2008. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-4000-0758-5. 

Out of the Crowded Vagueness by Brian Dyde, Macmillan Education 2005, ISBN 0-333-97598-7

Anguilla: Where There's a Will There's A Way by Colville Petty 1984, copyright Colville Petty

External links

16x16px Wikimedia Atlas of Anguilla