The Seychelles were uninhabited throughout most of recorded history. Some scholars assume that Austronesian seafarers and later Maldivian and Arab traders were the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles. The earliest recorded sighting by Europeans took place in 1502 by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral). The earliest recorded landing was in January 1609, by the crew of the “Ascension” under Captain Sharpeigh during the fourth voyage of the British East India Company.
A transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, the islands were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control starting in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance.
The British contested control over the islands between 1794 and 1810. Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy, French administrator of Seychelles during the years of war with the United Kingdom, declined to resist when armed enemy warships arrived. Instead, he successfully negotiated the status of capitulation to Britain which gave the settlers a privileged position of neutrality.
Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1810, formalised in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903. Elections were held in 1966 and 1970.
Independence was granted in 1976 as a republic within the Commonwealth. In the 1970s the Seychelles was “the place to be seen, a playground for film stars and the international jet set”. In 1977, a coup d’état by France Albert René ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham. France Albert Rene discouraged over-dependence on tourism and declared that he wanted “to keep the Seychelles for the Seychellois”.
The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1991. The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the requisite 60% of voters in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.
Dialling code: +248
Currency: Seychellois rupee
Population: 89,173 (2013) World Bank
President: James Michel