History of Seychelles

History of Seychelles

Although the Seychelles archipelago was originally uninhabited it was very likely visited by Arab and Indonesian traders and sea fearers.

The first European record of the island was in 1502 when Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama sighted the Amirantes Islands, which are part of the Seychelles group. The Portuguese called the islands the Seven Sisters.

The first known Briton to set foot on Seychelles soil was John Jourdan of the British East India Company. The British landed on North and Silhouette Islands in 1609.

In 1742 Lazare Picault became the first Frenchman to visit Seychelles when he led an expedition from Mauritius to Mahe. He named the island the 'Isle of Abundance'. Two years later Picault returned to make a more complete survey and named the island 'Mahe' after the Governor of Mauritius, Le Vicomte Mahe.     

On the 9th November 1756 an Irish sea captain, Corneille Morphey, laid claim to Mahe and the seven nearby islands to the east on behalf of Louis XV of France by laying a Stone of Possession. The group was then named after Jean Morteau de Sechelles who was Minister of Finance for King Louis XV.

In 1770 the French became the first to live permanently in Seychelles when they landed on Ste Anne Island to form a settlement. This first settlement comprised of 28 persons.

In 1771 a spice plantation was started at Anse Royale on the main island of Mahe. It was the intention of the French to compete with the Dutch in the spice trade. However the spice plantation was not a success. Some years later the plantation was mistakenly burnt at the approach of what was thought to be British warships. By the time it was realized that the warships were actually French it was too late to save the spice plantation.

On the 15th December 1778 Lieutenant Charles Routier de Romanville with a garrison of 15 French solders landed on Mahe and built an settlement on the banks of the St. Louis River. At first called the L'Etablissemnt du Roi the name was changed to Victoria in 1840 in honor of Queen Victoria.

In 1789 the population of Seychelles comprised of 591 persons; 69 French settlers, 3 soldiers, 32 coloured persons and 487 slaves.

Starting in 1794 the islands capitulated to passing British warships a total of seven times.  As soon as the British warship had left and
was out of sight the French flag was again raised and the islands continued to be French until the next visit of a British warship.

The census of 1803 recorded the population as 2121 persons, including slaves. There were also 755 pigs, 281 cattle and 6248
chickens with the main crops being coffee, cotton and cloves. By 1830 the population was recorded as 8500 persons but fell by 1840 to 4360 persons. While many reasons have been put forwarded for the decrease in population, the most plausible is that with the abolishment of slavery in 1834 many left during the economic hard times that followed.  

In 1814 under the Treaty of Paris the French conceded Seychelles and Mauritius to the British. The British continued the French practice of administrating the Seychelles as a dependency of Mauritius.     

The Church of England/Anglican Church was established in the 1830s.

Slavery was completely abolished in 1835.

The economy was agricultural based producing mainly cotton, copra, coconut oil, cinnamon bark and oil and vanilla.

1853 saw the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1903 the Seychelles was detached from Mauritius to form a separate Crown Colony with its own Governor and administration.

The first elections to a legislative council took place in 1948.

Briton granted Seychelles its independence on the 29th June 1976. Seychelles became a republic within the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The Second Republic was established in 1979 when a new constitution establishing a one party state came into force.

In 1992 multi-parties were legalized again and in 1993 a new constitution established the third republic.

Eden Plaza, Eden Island

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