|Bermuda is an archipelago consisting of seven main islands and many smaller outlying islands. The main islands consist of hilly terrain and a subtropical climate and are clustered together. These islands are connected by bridges and are considered as one geographic unit, the Island of Bermuda.
Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by the Spanish explorer, Juan de Bermudez. The explorer made no attempt to land on the island due to the treacherous reef surrounding the uninhabited islands. The first settlers on Bermuda were English colonists who were on route to Virginia in a fleet of nine ships taking supplies to the new British settlement of Jamestown. The flagship of the fleet called Sea Venture, commanded by Admiral Sir George Somers was blown off course in a storm and struck the reef and was wrecked. Somers managed to get all the 150 crew ashore without a single loss of life. The crew were stranded for 10 months whilst they constructed two new boats to take them off the island. Once they reached Jamestown their reports aroused a great deal of interest in the island and later that year 60 British colonists under the command of Sir Thomas Moore, who became the islands first governor, arrived and founded the town of St. Georges the oldest continuously inhabited English speaking settlement in the western hemisphere. The colonists established a representative government for the island in 1620 and the island became self-governing.
Due to the isolation of the island, Bermuda remained as an outpost of 17thC British Civilisation with an economy based on ship building, using the local Cedar and juniper trees, and the salt trade. As with other islands in the region slaves were brought from Africa soon after the colony was established to work on the island. However the slave trade was outlawed in1807 and all the saves on the island were freed. Today about 60% of Bermudians are of African decent.
In the early 20th Century the island started to develop as Victorian tourist resort, as an escape from the cold North American winters. This development was helped by the introduction of a transport and communication system for the island. In 1930 the US Government imposed a tariff on all its trading partners, which cut off Bermuda’s once thriving agricultural export trade and made the island rely more heavily on tourism.
During World War II Bermuda became very important as a military base for the US Navy, due to its location in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1941 the United Kingdom granted the US a 99-year lease to establish naval ad air bases on the island. These bases consisted of 5.8 squared kilometres of land that was largely reclaimed from the sea. The USAAF airport, Kindley Field was situated on St. David’s Island whilst the Naval operation base was on the western end of the island in the Great Sound. These bases and those of the British and Canadian military were closed on September 1st 1995, however the land was not formally returned to the government of Bermuda until 2002 due to environmental factors.
In recent history Bermuda has prospered as a tourist destination and as an offshore financial centre. Tourism is principal and the most important section of Bermuda’s economy however international business is very important for the island.
Throughout its history Bermuda has remained under British rule however the debate about independence has always been a hot political topic. In 1995 there was an independence referendum, which was soundly defeated with 73% of those that voted, voting against independence.