History of the British Virgin Islands

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The History of the British Virgin Islands is usually, for convenience, broken up into five separate periods:

  • Pre-Columbian Amerindian settlement, up to an uncertain date
  • Nascent European settlement, from approximately 1612 until 1672
  • British control, from 1672 until 1834
  • Emancipation, from 1834 until 1950
  • The modern state, from 1950 to present day

These time periods are used for convenience only. There appears to be an uncertain period of time from when the last Arawaks left what would later be called the British Virgin Islands until the first Europeans started to settle there in the early 17th century, but each period commences with a dramatic change from the time period which precedes it, and so is a convenient way to compartmentalise the subject.

Contents

Pre-Columbian settlement

The first recorded settlement of the Territory was by Arawak Indians who came from South America, in around 100 BC. However, there is some dispute about the dates. Some historians place it later, at around 200 AD, but they suggest that the Arawaks may have been preceded by the Ciboney Indians, who are thought to have settled in nearby St. Thomas as early as 300 BC.[1] There is some evidence of Amerindian presence on the islands as far back as 1500 BC,[2] although there is little academic support for the idea of a permanent settlement on any of the current British Virgin Islands at that time.

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