Turks and Caicos History
Turks and Caicos history covers everything from Mesoamerican history to the Napoleonic Wars. The name Turks is derived after the indigenous Turk's Head "fez" cactus, and the name Caicos is a Lucayan term "caya hico", meaning string of islands. Columbus was said to have discovered the islands in 1492, but some still argue that Ponce de Leon arrived first.
Whoever it was, the first people to truly discover the islands were the Taino Indians, who unfortunately left little behind but ancient utensils. Then the Lucayans eventually replaced the Tainos, but by the middle of the 16th century they too had disappeared - victims of Spanish enslavement and imported disease.
The 17th century saw the arrival of settlers from Bermuda, who established themselves on Salt Cay and South Caicos. They used slaves to rake salt for British colonies in America, and were later joined by British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. The economy of the island revolved around the rich cotton and sisal plantations, their harvests sold in London and New York.
Due to competition and the thin soil, however, the cotton plantations slowly deteriorated, most of them finally perishing in a hurricane in 1813. Solar salt then became the main economy of the islands.
In 1766, after being controlled by the Spanish, French and British, Turks and Caicos became part of the Bahamas colony, but attempts to integrate failed and were abandoned in 1848.
Boats frequently visited Turks and Caicos, so links with Jamaica were well developed. The Turks and Caicos were annexed to Jamaica in 1874. The islands were part of the United Kingdom's Jamaican colony until 1962, when they assumed the status as a separate crown colony upon Jamaica's independence.
The governor of The Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973.
The 1976 elections were won by the People's Democratic Movement (PDM), who were then to negotiate independence if they won the next elections in 1980. However, the other main political party, the Progressive National Party (PNP) won the 1980 elections and plans for independence were set aside and the islands remain to this day a British overseas territory.
The Turks and Caicos Islands prides itself on having been stable for 250 years.
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