A Brief History of Seychelles

Being familiar with the history of the place you're visiting makes your journey even more exciting and meaningful. So, get ready and let me take you through the centuries of Seychelles' fascinating history which involves explorers, pirates, colonisation, war, rivalry and what not! So here we go:

Pre-colonization Era

The Pioneers

The history of Seychelles before the 16th century is unrecorded, though we know that settlers from Borneo called Malays who eventually populated Madagascar may have known these islands in the third and the fourth centuries BCE. Arabs too are believed to have visited the islands and are likely to have traded the abundant fruit of Seychelles - coco de mer long before the first English vessels arrived on the coast.

Portuguese explorers started spotting the islands of Seychelles in the early years of the 16th century. It was Vasco da Gama who first made a definite identification of Seychelles in 1502. The coral reefs he discovered were named Amirantes (Admiral Islands), after his title 'Admiral' in 1517, while the surrounding granite islands came to be known as 'The seven sisters'. However, the islands remained mostly uninhabited until the 17th century.  

British Discovery and the advent of Pirates

In 1609, a lost trading fleet of British East India Company landed on North Island and discovered the uninhabited island which was flourished with "wood, water, cooker nuts, fish and Fowle," as noted by a British merchant. However, the British made no efforts to settle the islands, and over the next century and a half, the islands became a refuge for pirates who attacked the travelling rich merchant vessels and seized shiploads of goods, precious stones, silver and gold. Seychelles was ideal for anchoring and hiding treasure. Sagas of pirates and the wealth they buried in these Islands have travelled from generation to generation.

 
Pre-colonization Era, History of Seychelles
Source

French Colonization and Settlement

France took control of Mauritius and renamed it Isle de France in 1715. Ambitious to strengthen its trade routes and consolidate power, the colonial administrator of France sent Lazare Picault to map the islands northeast of Madagascar. Picault then discovered Mahé, the largest of the granite islands in 1742. A couple more voyages followed this expedition to Seychelles and eventually in 1756, France officially declared the Seychelles Islands their colonies.  By 1770, French settlers, with their African slaves, began arriving on the island of Mahé. They gradually developed agriculture and started growing cotton, sugarcane etc.; and hunted the giant tortoises which are a speciality of Seychelles today.

French colonization and settlement, History of Seychelles
Source

France-Britain Rivalry

Of course, these Islands weren't going to stay untouched by the France-Britain conflict which had long been going on since the Seven Years' War broke out in 1754. Now the British wanted control over the islands, but Governor Queau de Quinssy, through his Pacific strategies, consistently succeeded in deceiving them by surrendering and then raising the French Flags as soon as the British departed!

The Napoleonic Wars, however, ended with France's loss and under the Treaty of Paris (1814), old Isle de France, now renamed Mauritius fell in Britain's hands, and so did Seychelles. From then until 1903, Seychelles was administered from Mauritius.

British Rule in Seychelles

Britain abolished the slave trade at the beginning of the 19th century and later, slavery itself in 1835. They had a policy of attacking the Spanish, Arab and other slave vessels, and the rescued African slaves were sent to the plantations to work as labourers. To cope with the new slave-less economy, planters started growing less labour-intensive crops like - coconut.

Even though Seychelles became an official British crown colony in 1903 and got separated from Mauritius, the French influence on the language and culture of Seychelles people did not perish. The social structure of Seychelles was dominated by a small group of French-speaking plantation owners while the major chunk of the population consisted of landless descendants of slaves who conversed in their local tongue - Creole.

Sir Ernest Bickhame Sweet-Escott, the first British governor of Seychelles,  installed a replica of the Big Ben tower in the centre of the capital of Seychelles, Victoria.

British Rule in The Seychelles, History of Seychelles
Source

Independence

World War 1 had disastrous consequences on Seychelles. Poverty continued to grow and the economy was in shambles. Soon workers formed Unions to fight for better conditions. Towards the beginning of World War 2, the residents of Seychelles began demanding Home rule. The archipelago became a backup supply base during the world war. Dissatisfaction among people continued to grow and it was in the wake of such circumstances that the first political party was formed in 1939. However, this party only represented the large landowners who constituted a minority and could now vote.

Coming of Political Parties and Democracy

The left inclined Seychelles People's United Party (SPUP), led by France Albert Rene was formed in 1964 and the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP), led by James Manchan, which represented the landowners was also formed the same year. Universal suffrage was introduced in 1967 and the elections of 1970 resulted in the introduction of a new constitution. In 1976, the leaders of the two parties put aside their differences and declared Seychelles independent from the UK, moving away from the Islands? history of betrayal and military takeover. Mancham became the first President of Seychelles, with Rene as his Prime Minister. Ironically enough, Mancham's presidency was short-lived as Rene launched a military takeover soon and ended up becoming the President of Seychelles for the next 16 years!

How did Seychelles become a Popular Tourist Destination?

Today tourism contributes more than 50% to Seychelles GDP (Total contribution). It all started with the completion of the airport of Mahé which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. It kick-started the tourism process, though it took some time to gain pace. Introduction of casinos, water-sport activities, and vigorous advertising campaigns gained travellers' attention from all over the world. Gradually people became aware of the Islands' tranquil atmosphere, pristine beaches, lush greenery and everything else, and then it wasn't long before Seychelles became one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.

Mahe Airport, History of The Seychelles
Source

Legends of Coco de Mer

Shaped like female-pelvis, the nut of Coco de Mer, a large fruit which is native to Seychelles, has aroused interest among men since ancient times. The fascinating fruit, washed up on shores far away, was viewed as an object with mythological and magical properties, and consequently became a part of popular legends and lore.

Malay seamen are said to have seen the seeds "falling upwards" from the depths of the ocean, fueling the belief that the seeds were borne from the underwater palm trees. They also believed that the trees were home to a huge bird-like creature called Garuda.

The discovery of the real Coco de Mer trees in 1743 gave rise to new legends. The local folklore tells the story of the seed of Coco de Mer, which is borne by the female plant and the phallic-shaped catkin which grows on male trees, who make passionate love on stormy nights, and anyone who witnesses their mating dies or go blind. Rings a bell, right?!

 
Legends of Coco de mer, History of Seychelles
Source

Seychelles is immensely rich with a fascinating history and charming beauty. Now that you've delved into its centuries-long history, travelling these beautiful islands will be way more exciting and fun. So gear up, as Roosevelt has rightly said - "The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for future." 
Bon, voyage!

This post was published by Pranjali Kureel

Share this post on social media
Google +

Related Articles

Art & Culture

Learn About Seychelles Culture, Traditions & People

Art & Culture

Language of Seychelles - Your Guide to Creole and Seychelles Language Translation

Art & Culture

Religion in Seychelles

Art & Culture

History of Mahe - Seychelles Unearthed!

Art & Culture

Music of Seychelles - The Pillar of the Island Culture

Travel Tips

Seychelles Weather in October

Travel Tips

Seychelles Weather In September: What To Expect & Where To Go

Shopping

A Complete Guide To Shopping In Seychelles

Food & Drink

Vegetarian Food in Seychelles

Travel Tips

All About Currency Exchange In Seychelles & Seychellois Rupee

Wildlife & Nature

Wildlife in Seychelles - Fabulous Flora & Fauna of Island

Transport

Commuting Within Seychelles - How To Get Around The Land Of Beaches

Adventure

Fly Fishing In Seychelles - Experience the Deep Blue Safari

Art & Culture

Learn About Seychelles Culture, Traditions & People

Art & Culture

Language of Seychelles - Your Guide to Creole and Seychelles Language Translation

13 Best Beaches in Seychelles For Your Right Mood!

Travel Tips

Seychelles' Weather In August Decoded!

Travel Tips

Seychelles in December: All You Need to Know

Travel Tips

Seychelles Weather in March - Where To Go & What To Do!

Art & Culture

Religion In Seychelles

Travel Tips

Seychelles Weather In January

Travel Tips

Mauritius Or Seychelles - Which To Pick For Your Next Holiday?

Beaches & Islands

Island Hopping In Seychelles - The Best Way To Explore 7 Idyllic Lands of Seychelles

Experiences

Wedding in Seychelles: Top 10 Resorts To Get Married!

Adventure

Surfing In Seychelles - A Complete Guide

Transport

Airports in Seychelles

Adventure

Hiking in Seychelles - 17 Hiking Trails for an Unforgettable Adventure

Travel Tips

Seychelles Weather In July

Travel Tips

Seychelles Visa for Indians - Tourist Visa Application & Conditions

Travel Tips

Seychelles Safety & Travel Tips - Is Seychelles Safe?

Romantic & Honeymoon

10 Romantic Things to Do on Your Honeymoon in Seychelles

Nightlife

Seychelles Nightlife - The Quintessential Guide to 15 Top Nightlife Experiences

Beaches & Islands

Zanzibar vs Seychelles - Pick Your Next Holiday Destination

Wildlife & Nature

National Parks In Seychelles - Explore Nature Like Never Before

Beaches & Islands

Islands In Seychelles You Won't Want To Miss!

Beaches & Islands

Maldives vs Seychelles: Pick Your Next Holiday Destination!

Travel Tips

Seychelles Weather in April

Beaches & Islands

Seychelles Or Bali - Sort Out Your Next Holiday Plan!

Adventure

Snorkelling in Praslin Island, Seychelles

Food & Drink

Coco de Mer - The Sexy Coconut Of Seychelles!

Transport

Getting Around Praslin Island - The A To Z Of Transportation In Praslin

Art & Culture

History of Mahe - Seychelles Unearthed!

Shopping

Shopping in Mahé: A Complete Guide

Top Places

10 Most Beautiful Islands In The World

Nightlife

Nightlife in Mahe - Places To Get The Party Going If You Are in Mahe

Adventure

Snorkelling in La Digue

Beaches & Islands

22 Beautiful Beaches in Mahe, Seychelles

Adventure

Snorkelling In Mahe - Best Spots To Experience The Underwater World

Beaches & Islands

10 Beaches In La Digue, Seychelles

Adventure

Scuba Diving In La Digue - A Detailed Guide

Adventure

Diving In Mahe - Explore A World Of Wonder!

Nightlife

Nightlife In La Digue - Get The Party Started!

Beaches & Islands

10 Best Beaches In Praslin Island

Transport

Commuting Within Mahe - All About Transportation In Mahe

Art & Culture

Music of Seychelles - The Pillar of the Island Culture

Cities in Seychelles

Food & Drink

Food of Seychelles - 7 Best of Traditional Seychelles Cuisine & Places to Eat

Backpacking

Islands In Seychelles You Won't Want To Miss!

Casinos In Seychelles - Top 7 Gambling Zone On The African Islands

Transport

Renting a Car In Seychelles - Your Guide To The Car Rentals in Seychelles

Top Places

The Stars Align - Here's Where You Should Travel This Year Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Beaches & Islands

Best Beaches in Seychelles For Your Right Mood!

Sightseeing

Waterfalls in Seychelles

Comments on this post