The History of the British Virgin Islands (BVIs)

This article is a look into the BVI history. Anyone who loves sailing would know that the British Virgin Islands is the platinum racetrack for sailing. Credit for this spectacular event goes way back into the BVI history and should be given to the Ciboney tribe; they were the first inhabitants that had the privilege to dwell on the island of Tortola and were then followed by the Awarak and Carib Indians. Documented BVI history states that Columbus spotted the Virgin Islands in the year 1493 on his second voyage and the islands were named after the 11,000 virgins who were the attendants to St. Ursula who traveled to Germany with them. Las Virgines as the islands were called by the Spanish, consists of about 40 cays, islands or islets the largest and most populous being Tortola. To this day Road Town, Tortola remains the capital of the Virgin Islands and the islands of the BVI history is as unique as its residents.

The British Virgin Islands form almost an oval shape around the island of Tortola creating the perfect environment for sailing. Tortola and in extension the 40 islands and cays that surround this island (British Virgin Islands) the BVI history shows that they were used as a base to launch attacks against the Spanish. The Buccaneers and pirates were especially attracted Tortola because of the islands’ hidden coves and intricate reef system, which made passing ships a direct target. Some of the worlds most infamous pirates used Tortola as their ‘headquarters’ a place where they would lie awaiting on unsuspecting ships transporting their riches from the New World.

As the name indicates, the British Virgin Islands was colonized by Britain and have remained under British Rule. BVI history shows that Britain however was not the first European nation to set foot on this island; the Dutch were the first settlers to actually set up a colony in Tortola after the Spanish abandoned the island because of its lack of gold. The Dutch explorers held on to Tortola till a group of British adventurers took over in the 17th century. The British did extensive cultivation in Tortola with the aid of slave labor. Slaves planted Sea Island cotton, indigo and most valuable, sugar. Tortola did exceptionally well and as a result the economy of the island was based solely on sugar and cotton. In the 18th century, planters in Tortola petitioned, for the second time, to the crown to have a separate civil government and constitutional courts. This was granted and Tortola and the remainder of the islands in the Virgin Islands were given separate internal government with the British Monarch as the head of state.

The British Influence on the island can be seen in a number of ways such as dress, music language but the most impressive is in Tortola’s architectural style. This colonial type of architecture has given the island a warm but modest feel. The Government of Tortola has done their uttermost best to ensure the preservation of their lovely, quaint country. Development in Tortola has been kept at a minimum keeping the original British architectural style.

Tortola is one of the main tourist destinations for sailing and yacht charter vacations. The island’s history has created a people proud of their heritage and devoted to preserving their cultural background. Tortola is one of the main destinations for sailing, exploring coral reefs, diving, and an ideal location for relaxation.