www.escape-bvi.com An Adventurers Guide To The British Virgin Islands
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History Of The British Virgin Islands

Copper Mine, Virgin Gorda
Copper Mine from the 1800's
located on Virgin Gorda

Christopher Columbus is often accredited with discovering the British Virgin Islands, when in fact, the first people to come to these picture perfect isles were the Amerindians. The Amerindians were pre-historic people, who originated in the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela. They arrived around 900 BC and settled throughout the Windward and Leeward Islands, flourishing in the islands for well over 1,000 years.

Yet, Columbus did "discover" and name the islands. It was during his second voyage to the New World in 1493, that Columbus came across the British Virgin Islands. Columbus anchored off an island with a protruding mountain, Virgin Gorda - "the fat virgin," and named the group of islands and cays after the legendary St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. But Columbus had other ideas and set out for the islands of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola where he hoped to find gold.

For over 100 years, the British Virgin Islands remained untouched until its many sheltered coves were discovered by pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the era's most famous scalawags are alleged to have launched their raids from these shores, including Black Beard, Norman and Jost Van Dyke. Several of the islands here, including Norman, Jost Van Dyke, and Great and Little Thatch (named after Edward Thatch - commonly known as Blackbeard), are named after these legendary adventurers. Other notable pirates in Caribbean history include: Charles Vane, Edward England, Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.

1925 Church, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Church built in 1925,
located on Jost Van Dyke

The first true settlers were the Dutch who arrived in 1648. But in 1666, British planters took over control of the British Virgin Islands, whereupon the islands attained the status of a British colony, and remained part of the Leeward Islands from 1872 until 1956, when the British Virgin Islands became a separately administered entity. To keep the economic ties with the U.S. Virgin Islands, the group did not join the 1958-1962 West Indies Federation of British Virgin Islands. In 1967, a new constitution provided for a government ministerial system headed by a Chief Minister who is chosen by the members of the majority party. A British Governor is appointed by the Queen and acts as her representative here. The island group remains under British control today.

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