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    The Seychelles Islands were so named after a Minister of Finance in the reign of Louis XV, Vicomte  Moreau de Seychelles. There is some evidence to suggest that they may have been known or visited in the  Middle Ages by traders from the Arabian and Persian Gulfs,  sailing to and from ports in East Africa before the monsoons; they are clearly associated with the great period to Portuguese  exploration in the Indian Ocean.  The Amirantes group were sighted by Vasco da Gama on his second  and less famous voyage to Indian in 1502  or  1503.  A short time previously, 1501 or 1502, the remote island of Farquhar, formerly called John de Novo, may have been discovered by the great Portuguese explorer of that name. 1501 is also the date of the first map showing what are beleived to be the main group of  islands.

    The credit for the first well-documented discovery of the archipelago goes to the British.  In 1609, an expedition known as “The Fourth Voyage of the East India Company”, under the command of Alexander , Sharpeigh, visited the main granitic group, including Mahe and nearby islands.  A circumstantial account of this expedition is to be found  in the “Journal of John Jourdain”, published by the Hakluyt Society.  This ante-dates the first French voyage of discovery under Lazare Picault by almost a century and a half.
    It was that greatest of all French Governors of Mauritius, Le Vomte Mahe de Labourdonnais, who had briefed Picault in 1741 to explore Seychelles, and, had Labourdonnais not fallen victim to base intrigues, it is possible, even probable, that he would have turned Mahe into a formidable naval base against Britain at the time when French and British interests were clashing in India.  As it was, all he could do for Seychelles was to bequeath his name to the largest island, Mahe.
    For fifteen years Seychelles remained forgotten, and then, on intelligence that the British were seeking uninhabited, islands in the Indian Ocean, France decided to annex Mahe and seven other  islands of the group. To that end Captain C.N. Morphey was dispatched with orders to set up on Mahe a “Stone  of Possession” engraved with the arms of France.  He did so at an impressive ceremony at sunrise of 1st November 1756, whereafter he set sail leaving the islands  still uninhabited.

    By 1763 the French East India Company owing to mismanagement had lost most of its possessions in India and had disrupted the economy of Mauritius.  It was wound up and its remaining assessts,  including Mauritius and its dependances, lapsed to the King of France.  Transfer was not completed till 1767 when two official Administrators were sent to Mauritius Jean Dumas in charge of naval and political affairs, and Pierre Poivre Minister for Finance and Agriculture – to develop the islands and prepare for further hostilities with Britain in the East.

    Both men soon turned their eyes to Seychelles. Dumas’ interests were to find a cheap and reliable source of timber for his naval dockyards, and he dispatched an expedition in 1768.  A party was put ashore  on Praslin and remained there for some time cutting timber.   Poivre,  who had already introduced into Mauritius the cultivation of spices on a considerable scale to offset the Dutch monopoly  in the Far East, conceived the idea of extending this operation to Seychelles, and a garden was actually started, as well as a small settlement on St. Anne’s Island in 1770.  Space forbids more than a passing reference to an over-optimistic speculator named Sieur du Barre who financed these two operation.  Both came to ignominious ends.
After this first failure, the Administrators of Mauritius repeatedly between 1772 and 1775 urged that King Louis should take over Seychelles “even if it was to cost money, as if the British were to get established there, they could do much damage to French shipping”.  The plan they put forward was to station on Mahe a small garrison and to accept the offer of a number of inhabitants of Mauritius and Reunion to settle there with their slaves.  The function of the settlers was to grow food for the garrison and passing ships.  Two years later Lt.  Romainville with 15 soldiers and 12 slaves was sent to set up and administrative headquarters on the site around which Victoria was later to arise.  Thereafter settlers with parties of slaves began to arrive.  

    These settlers in the main came of previously well-to-do families who had fled France in face of financial disaster and threatening revolution, or had quit India after the collapse of French supremacy there in 1761.  All were faced with the necessity of starting life afresh.  Though the official role allotted to them as that of farmers, their primary ambition was to rebuild their shattered fortunes, and they found it quicker and vastly more lucrative to traffic in the island’s natural and abundant resources – tortoises and timber.    Thus began the rape of Seychelles.  Between 1784 and 1789 alone it was estimated that over 13,000 giant tortoises had been shipped from Mahe, while many more were slaughtered for home consumption.  Damage to the island’s magnificent forests  had been on much the same scale.

    Appalled by this devastation, the French authorities in Mauritius sent M.  Malavois in 1789 with orders to end it.  The Colonists were confined to fixed areas and all trading forbidden.  Thereafter their activities were devoted to the raising of crops, and it is to the credit of the Colonists that, as long as slavery was permitted to continue, they managed, in addition to feeding themselves and their slaves, to fulfill their intended role as ship chandlers and  surveyors to the garrison, even at times producing a surplus of maize, rice and cotton for export.  Nevertheless, their ignorance  of the nature of tropical soils and their wasteful methods of cultivation (burning tracts of forest land, cropping them till fertility declined and then repeating the operation elsewhere) led to further impoverishment of a soil leading poor by nature.

    The year  1789 saw the beginning of the French Revolution.  The population of Seychelles at that time numbered 69 persons of French blood, 3 soldiers of the garrison, 32 coloured persons and 487 slaves.  The number of full citizens was 20.  Nevertheless, this tiny group of Fenchmen had applied to Seychelles, in their own manner, the revolution which had taken place in their  motherland.  In June of 1790 they set up a Permanent Colonial Assembly and a Committee of Administration.  They repudiated all links with Mauritius, and invested the Assembly with judicial and other powers as a separated Royal Domain with internal self-government, thus anticipating by 133 years the status of Crown Colony granted by Britain in 1903 though as yet without internal autonomy.   

    Their enthusiasm for revolution, however, was short-lived.  It evaporated with the arrival of a Republican Commandant, who proclaimed, among other changes, the abolition of slavery without compensation.  Almost to a man the Colonists boycotted him.   He was succeeded by Chevalier Quean de Quincy who brought news that the edict concerning slavery had been revoked.  Thus ended a short but colourful episode in the history of the Colony, and Seychelles once more settled back as a dependency of Mauritius.      

    For a number of years serious depredations on British shipping in the Indian Ocean had been caused by “corsairs”.  Several were owned by Seychellois, and it was partly to put an end to such activities that the British Navy took to making periodical raids on Mahe.  Thus in 1794 a British Squadron appeared off Victoria, demanding the unconditional surrender of the island.  De Quincy had no forces to repel attack, but nevertheless managed by admirable courage and diplomacy to obtain a deed of capitulation most favourable to the islanders .

    In 1802 the Peace of Amiens was signed but hostilities broke out again in 1803.   With a view to weakening the British hold  on India, Napoleon determined to station a strong fleet on the main trade route in the Indian Ocean.  To this  end Mauritius was made the naval and military headquarters, Reunion  and Madagascar  the depots of food and stores, and Seychelles an advanced outpost.  Britains’s reply was to place a naval blockade on all these islands.

    In 1802 Seychelles was again visited by the British Navy and a second capitulation was signed.  Once more de Quincy’s shrewdness served the Colonists well, for on this occasion he managed to obtain an  additional concession whereby ships of Seychelles flying a certain flag could pass through the blockade unmolested.   There is a no doubt that the corsairs, who at time addded piracy and slave- of  trade secured under the Flag of Capitulation, brought considerable wealth to the Colony.

    These good times came to an abrupt end with the fall of Mauritius to British forces in 1810, and when, additionally, Britain made it clear that slavery was to be abolished, a number of colonists with their slaves, estimated at nearly half the population, left Seychelles.

    During the pourparlers to the Treaty of Paris, Britain offered to restore Mauritius and its  dependencies to France if that country would renounce all claims to is small to its small remaining possessions in India.  France refused and so, in 1814, all these islands were formally ceded to Britain.  It is characteristic of British magnanimity to defeated foes that, although all previous undertaking made at the time of the capitulation of Mauritius and its dependencies to respect French ownership of property, laws and customs were omitted from the treaty, those in respect of Seychelles continued to be honoured in deed, and, an even greater proof of good-will, Chevalier de Quincy was invited to become Juge de Paix in Seychelles.  He accepted and served with distinction in that office till his death 13 years later.

    From the date of its founding right up to 1903 Seychelles was regarded as a dependency of Mauritius.    It proved an unhappy relationship.  A series of Civil Commissioners, under the tutelage of Mauritius,  administered Seychelles from 1811 to 1888, but some degree of separation was effected in 1872,  when a Board of Civil Commissioners was appointed with financial autonomy.  The powers of this board under a Chief Civil Commissioner were extended by another Order-in-council was passed creating an Administrator with a nominated  Executive  and Legislative Council as from 1889.  In 1897 the separation from Mauritius became more marked, when the Administrator was endowed with the full powers of a Governor.  Six years later, by Letters Patent of 31 August 1903, this separation was completed and Seychelles became a Crown Colony with a Governor and Executive and Legislative Councils, with effect from the 10th November, 1903.  The latter was reconstructed in 1960 and now consists of the Governor as President, 4 ex-officio Members, 5 elected Members and 3 nominated Members, of  whom one at least is not a public officer.

    The annals of Seychelles during the first forty-five years as a Crown Colony are not impressive.  The Colony endured some bad spells caused by an unprecedented drought in 1904 and several periods of depressed prices  for its exports.  The main object of Government and the Legislative Council over these years seems to have been to keep taxation at a low level and to balance the budget.  Some progress however, was found possible in the fields of education and public  health, but agriculture, the Colony’s mainstay, remained the plaything of the planters, to be explicited with continued disregard for conservation of the soil’s fertility.  As a result produce for export remained far below potentials and the Colony’s revenues insufficient to finance that expansions required by a rapidly increasing population.

     Two World-wars hardly affected Seychelles, but changed the shape of the rest of the world more rapidly than at any time during the preceding four hundred years.  Concurrently British                         
Colonial policy took on not so much a change of object and direction as an accelerated speed towards the goal of preparing the colonies for self-government, and when a review of the position in Seychelles showed that  the Colony had lagged far behind in its advancement, a plan to bring it up-to-date and to equip it  for eventual self-government  was drawn up and is now in operation.

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Seychelles is a comparatively young nation which can trace its first settlement back to 1770 when the islands were first settled by the French, leading a small party of whites, Indians and Africans. The islands remained in French hands until the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, evolving from humble beginnings to attain a population of 3,500 by the time Seychelles was ceded to Britain under the treaty of Paris in 1814.

During this period Seychelles came to know the enlightened policies of administrators such as Pierre Poivre, the brilliant politicking of Governor Queau de Quinssy and, of course, the terrible repercussions of the French Revolution.

Under the British, Seychelles achieved a population of some 7,000 by the year 1825. Important estates were established during this time producing coconut, food crops, cotton and sugar cane. During this period Seychelles also saw the establishment of Victoria as her capital, the exile of numerous and colourful troublemakers from the Empire, the devastation caused by the famous Avalanche of 1862 and the economic repercussions of the abolition of slavery.

Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976 and became a republic within the commonwealth. Following a period of single party rule by the government of Mr. France Albert René, on December 4, 1991, President René announced a return to the multiparty system of government, 1993 saw the first multiparty presidential and legislative elections held under a new constitution in which President René was victorious. President René also won the 1998 and 2003 elections before transferring the Presidency to James Alix Michel in June 2004.


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Short Facts:


From the end of the 16th century until 1730, the Seychelles remained the secret hiding place for pirates.
1742 - The first French exploratory expedition led by Lazare Picault and Grossin; commissioned by the Governor of Mauritius, Mahe de la Bourdonnais.
1756 - French occupation by Captain Nicolas Morphey. The islands are named after King Louis XV chancellor Jean Moreau de Sechelles.
1770 - The first 20 or so inhabitants arrive on the island of St. Anne, from the French colony of Mauritius.
1772 - The second group of inhabitants arrive at the beach of Anse Royale, on Mahe.
1778 - A new group of inhabitants arrive, and build their homes in the place where today Victoria stands, the foundation stone for Victoria was placed.
1785 - 70 white European men inhabit the islands, along with their 500 slaves.
1794 . Chevalier Jean Baptise Queau de Quinssy becomes Governor of the Seychelles.
1794-1811 - Sovereignty of the islands fluctuates between England and France, several times.
1835 - England abolishes slavery on the islands, granting 4000 slaves their freedom.
1893 - The first telegraph cable is laid, between Mahe and Sansibar.
1903 - The Seychelles break away from the Mauritius colony, and become a separate colony under British rule.
1972 - Opening of the International Airport, built by the British Government.
1976 - On 29th June, the Seychelles became an Independent republic.
1977 - Albert Rene seizes power in the coup d’etat.
1982-83 - The atoll of Aldabra and Vallee de Mai are included in the list of World Heritage sites.
1993 - The Republic of the Seychelles is made into a multiparty state, and Albert Rene is democratically voted President, having been in office since 1977.
1994 - The Republic of the Seychelles has a population of approximately 70,000 people.