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Anguilla is an archipelago of 102 km2 located 7.2 kilometres north of the island of Saint-Martin. It is also the name of the main island, with an area of 96 km2, which owes its name to its elongated shape. The altitude does not exceed 65 m and culminates at Crocus Hill. Dog Island and Prickly Pear are uninhabited islands surrounded by reefs and fine sandy beaches. A distance to the southeast of only 7 kilometres separates Anguilla from Bell Point on St. Martin Island, while 145 km to the west-northwest is required to reach Beef Island in the British Virgin Islands.

Flights connect Anguilla Airport to Puerto Rico and Princess Juliana International Airport (Philipsburg Airport, Sint Maarten on the Dutch side).

Arawak settlement and early explorers

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the island was called Malliouhana, “arrowhead”, by the Arawak Indians traces that date back at least to 600 AD, in particular petroglyphs at the bottom of a cave called La Fontaine and the remains of about forty villages. The Arawaks cultivated cassava, cotton, corn and sweet potato. They fished different varieties of fish and reef shellfish.

The first mention of the island by a European is made by Christopher Columbus in 1493, who named it Anguilla, probably because of its elongated shape.

British colonization

Anguilla was colonized by the English in 1650, a period when it was mainly populated by pirates and buccaneers who made it a den. By 1648, the Dutch had settled nearby on the islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, which still served as a refuge for Dutch pirates, Joost van Dijk having remained the most famous, one of the Virgin Islands was named after him. All the Dutch were expelled by English freebooters in 1666. Around 1680, English farmers from Anguilla settled in Tortola, then in Anegada and Virgen Gorda. In 1745 and 1796 the island suffered two attempts at invasion by France.

Colony of Saint Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla

From 1882 to 1967, Anguilla was part of the colony of Saint-Christophe-Niévès-Anguilla, but its population regularly complained about the forgetting or leaving Saint-Christophe. For example, the name Anguilla is omitted from the inscriptions of official buildings (such as the Grammar School of Saint Christopher common to the three islands) and postage stamps until 1952.

On 27 February 1967, the United Kingdom granted autonomous status to the associated State of Saint Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla. As soon as the negotiations began in mid-January, Anguillans had expressed their disagreement, which resulted in some violence. On May 30, the Anguillans rose up, drove out the police from Saint-Christophe and set up a legislative council. On 16 June, Anguilla unilaterally withdrew from the associated State.

Separation from Saint Kitts and Nevis

An association of Canadians, led by Leopold Kohr, then an economics professor in Puerto Rico, supported the Anguillans in creating an independent state. On July 11, 1967, a referendum on secession from Saint Kitts and Nevis was held, with 1,813 votes in favour and 5 against. Independence was proclaimed the next day but was obviously not recognised by the United Kingdom. On the advice of Leopold Kohr, and in accordance with his theory of endogenous development, Anguilla refused to allow American hotel companies to concretize the coastline and refused to grant the shipowner Aristotle Onassis the construction of a private transhipment port.

In January 1968, a British official was appointed to “exercise minimal administrative authority” and try to reach an agreement between Anguilla and Saint Kitts and Nevis. Following the failure of the negotiations, a second referendum was held in January 1969 by the United Kingdom, at the end of which 1,739 votes were cast in favour of secession and 4 against. Anguilla declared itself an “independent republic” on 6 February. A new negotiator was appointed, who arrived in Anguilla on 11 March and was expelled the same day. Eight days later, on 19 March, the United Kingdom sent 315 “Red Devils” from the 16th Parachute Brigade, supported by helicopters, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and a London police detachment to invade the island to “bring order”. The Anguillans put up no resistance except a few spits and insults. The British press headlines on the “Bay of Pigs”, the “Paper Blitzkrieg”, or the “War in a Cup of Tea”; in the British Parliament a deputy congratulates Prime Minister Harold Wilson on having found an opponent of his size.

British paratroopers were quickly replaced by engineers, who repaired the consequences of 150 years of negligence on the part of Saint-Christophe. As of September 15, 1969, Anguilla’s status became very unclear. Theoretically attached on that date to the associated State of Saint Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla, which actively ignores it (since 1969, for example, the defence forces have only mentioned Saint Kitts and Nevis in their names), it is governed directly through “provisional agreements” with the United Kingdom. It was not until 19 December 1980 that Anguilla was recognized as a separate colony from Saint Kitts and Nevis, before adopting a constitution on 1 April 1982 granting it autonomy.

Economy

Traditional activities such as livestock farming, coastal fishing (437 t in 2003) including lobster, salt production and boat building have been replaced by the tourism industry (47,000 visitors in 2003) which provides two-thirds of GDP. Anguilla also hosts 6,500 companies, mainly financial, attracted by a favourable tax regime: 0% taxes, but the costs of setting up are high. The Eastern Caribbean dollar (XCD) and the US dollar (USD) are used.

GNP was USD 112 million in 2002. In 1999, the value of exports was $2.6 million and imports $80.9 million. On September 6, 2017, the island was devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Demographics

Anguilla had a population of about 6,500 at the time of its revolution in 1967, 9,660 in 1992 and about 15,000 in 2011. As of July 2015, Anguilla’s population is estimated at over 16,400. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, 90.6% of Anguilla’s population is Christian, mainly Protestant (84.2%) and to a much lesser extent Catholic (5.7%). In addition, 2.9% of the population practises a popular religion.

The Environment

The surface of Anguilla is 91 km2 and that of its dependency, the island Sombrero, is 5 km2. They are part of the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles. The climate is tropical. There are important salt mines.

The Society

People: The population of Anguilla is descended from slaves brought from Africa, with some crossbreeding from the European colonizers. There is a British minority. Many reside permanently on U.S. islands, such as the Virgin Islands.

Religion: Predominantly Protestant.

Language: English (official).

Political parties: The United Party of Anguilla in 1994 placed Hubert Huges in the post of prime minister, and won two seats in the Legislative Assembly, as did the National Alliance of Anguilla, from former premier Emile Gumbs and the Democratic Party of Anguilla, led by Victor Banks. The remaining seat was taken by an independent candidate.

The State

Official name: Anguilla

Capital: The Valley, 1,042 inhabitants (1984).

Government: Hubert Hughes, Chief Minister, since 1994. Alan Hoole, Governor General appointed by the British Crown in 1995. The unicameral Legislative Council has 11 members, of whom 7 are elected by universal suffrage for a period of 5 years.