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Anguilla - History

Anguilla History

The first Amerindians settled on Anguilla about 3500 years ago. Archaeological finds indicate that the island was a regional center for the Arawak Indians, who had sizable villages at Sandy Ground, Meads Bay, Rendezvous Bay and Island Harbour. The Carib Indians, who eventually overpowered the Arawaks, called the island Malliouhana. Early Spanish explorers named the island Anguilla, which means 'eel,' apparently because of its elongated shape.

The British established the first permanent European colony on Anguilla in 1650, and despite a few invasion attempts by the French, it has remained a Crown Colony ever since. While arid conditions thwarted the development of large plantations, the island did become an exporter of tobacco, cotton and salt. In the early 1800s Anguilla's population began to taper off from a peak of 10,500, and the island slid into a slow decline, largely forgotten by the rest of the world.

In 1967, Britain sought to loosen its colonial ties by lumping Anguilla into an alignment with the islands of St Kitts and Nevis, the nearest British dependencies. The intent was for the three islands to form a new Caribbean nation, the Associated State of St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, with Britain continuing to hold the reins on foreign affairs and defense.

Anguillians wanted no part of the new state, which they viewed as subjugation to St Kitts, their more powerful neighbor. Within a few months, the Anguillians had armed themselves and revolted, forcing St Kitts police off the island and blocking the runway to prevent a 'reinvasion' by Kittitian forces.

The British, concerned by the potential for bloodshed, stationed Royal Marines in the waters off Anguilla. After two years attempting to negotiate a solution, British forces invaded Anguilla in 1969. Rather than resisting, the islanders, content that some resolution was in the making, welcomed the first wave of British paratroopers, giving the event the bizarre aura of an Independence Day celebration.

The Anguillians eventually got their way: Britain agreed to drop the idea of an Anguillian union with St Kitts and continued British administration of the island under a modified colonial status that granted Anguilla a heightened degree of home rule.

Anguilla's recent history has been dominated by efforts to define its role in the world, especially on an economic level. In April 2000, the government set up a task force, in partnership with private sector representatives, to research ways of promoting e-commerce as a major sector of the economy. This new direction might prove particularly urgent given that Anguilla was included by the OECD on a list of 35 territories and countries deemed to be unfair tax havens, and was warned by the UK that it should step up efforts to prevent money laundering.

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