History of Anguilla

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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 Great 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 in 1493.

The Dutch claimed to have built a fort on the island in 1631, but no remains have been found and the location of the site is unknown. The first English colonists arrived from Saint Kitts in 1650, and began growing both tobacco and corn crops. The early colonisation was precarious: in 1656 Carib Indians invaded and destroyed the settlements, and in 1666 the island was captured by French forces. However, the British regained control of the island from the French in 1667 under the Treaty of Breda, and despite hardships caused by poor crop yields, drought and famine, the settlers hung on.

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