Bermuda's History from the Colonial Era to Modern Times

According to many sources, Bermuda dates back to the 1500s when several Europeans visited the area. The island was named after Juan de Bermudez who was a sea captain from Spain who came across the island in 1503. When the Spanish spotted the Bermuda island, it became a significant navigational landmark when they crossed the Atlantic.

In 1609, Sir George Somers who was an admiral, was using the route to take supplies to British settlements in the Virginia area. He was using a ship named Sea Venture to get to the settlement when he was wrecked off. He found the environment on the Bermuda island conducive and decided to build some replacement ships before sailing off leaving some of his men behind. The British men were left behind in order to lay claim to the area. The admiral returned in the same year but he passed away and this prompted the British to name the place Somers island in his honor. The new name did not stick and the island continued to be referred to as Bermuda.

Bermuda cathedral

Bermuda's Colonial History

When the Virginia Company heard about the islands conducive environment, they became very interested in it. About three years after admiral Somers had been shipwrecked in the area, the company sent about 60 settlers. The settlers were sent to create a colony in the area. The Bermuda island was not as abundant as the company had thought. The soil in the area was not conducive for agriculture and inadequate water make it difficult for the settlers to grow things like sugar cane which was considered to be a cash crop. Within a short time after their arrival in the area, the settlers were forced to rely on food imports from American colonies. The food supplies were paid for using sea salt that was acquired from Turks Islands.

For several years, the Bermuda islands were ran by the Bermuda Company and Virginia Company. The settlers were not happy about this and they used the company in order to have its charter rescinded. In 1684, the area became on of the British crown colonies. Slaves were brought into the area in 1616. The slaves were mostly from Africa but there were some American Indians as well. They were forced to live in very poor conditions and worked as tradespeople and domestic servants. A few of them were agricultural laborers. They learn several skills that came in handy after 1834 when slavery was abolished. By this time, there are about 5000 Africans living in Bermuda as slaves.

Relationship with the American Colonies

Bermuda had formed a close relationship with the American Colonies because they traded with each other but it also had some political ties with Britain. Its ties with Britain became stronger when the American War of Independence started. In 1812, Bermuda was used as a base by the British Navy during the war. America was not pleased with this collaboration and they retaliated by taking some of the island's unprotected cargo and this had a negative impact on its economy.

The Bermuda island was at an advantage during the US Civil war because cotton traders used the areas as their trans-shipment center because the southern ports were blocked by the north and their vessels were not capable of crossing the Atlantic. The islands prosperity was short lived because the south lost to the north in the war.

The Bermuda island came into the limelight in 1883, when Princess Louise, who was the daughter of Queen Victoria stayed in the area for a while. She was looking for a place to help her escape from the Canadian winter where her husband was a Governor General. After her visit, the island became popular among people who were trying to escape the harsh winter weather. Several steamers started to flock the area carrying several people during winter.

Bermuda is strategically located in the Atlantic and this is one of the reasons why it secured a significant role in the intelligence operations and allied military during the WWII. It is close to the US and this is why the Americans developed several bases on the island. The British gave the American a 99 year lease and this gave them a vast area of the island. This angered the locals because the Americans used this opportunity to build military bases. The Americans built an air base on Bermuda's St. Davids Island and this area has an international airport that functions to date.

Recent history

After WWII, women in Bermuda were allowed to take part in the voting process and the qualifications that had previously made it impossible for blacks to vote were eliminated. The first political party was introduced in 1963 and it was named the Progressive Labor Party. The party was formed in order to cater to the non-white population in Bermuda. The islands government was mostly comprised of white settlers. The other party that was formed in the area at that point was the United Bermuda Party. In 1968, the two of them worked together to come up with a constitution. The constitution gave rise to self government on the island. The British crown was still responsible for diplomatic affairs, defense and security on the island.

For several years, all the different races on the island had lived in harmony but this changed starting from 1970 with race antagonism and riots. When the riots started, de facto discrimination was abolished and the island started holding talks with the British to ask for independence. The independence issue has become one of the most dominant topics in the political scene and when a referendum was carried out in 1995, a majority of the people on the island voted against the independence because there was a lot of concern about the economic and political costs of the move. After the referendum, the people gained control of about 10% of the island and the US base was closed down.

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