First settled by the Arawaks from South America over 3500 years ago, Anguilla was called ‘Malliouhana, ’ which meant arrow-shaped sea serpent. The Arawaks settled the island for millennia, evidenced by many cave sites with petroglyphs and artifacts still visible today and studied by archaeologists.
Columbus sailed by in 1493, but didn’t land on the island (probably because he didn’t notice it since it’s extremely flat compared to St-Martin/Sint Maarten next door). Britain sent a colony in 1650 to take advantage of soil that was hospitable to growing corn and tobacco. However, it wasn’t hospitable to much else, and the plantation colonies that bloomed on nearby Caribbean islands, like St Kitts and Nevis, never defined Anguilla.
When the sugar plantations were abandoned due to a lack of viable soil and insufficient rain, small-scale industries, like sailing, fishing and private farming, began to crop up on the island. In 1834 Britain abolished slavery in its colonies, and many Anguillian ex-slaves took up positions as farmers, sailors and fishermen.
Soon after, Anguilla formed a federation with St Kitts and Nevis, which was disliked by most of the ex-slave population. Anguilla was allowed only one freeholder representative to the House of Assembly on St Kitts and was largely ignored, eventually culminating in the Anguilla Revolution in 1967. Anguilla Day marks May 30, 1967, the day Anguillians forced the Royal St Kitts Police off the island for good.
As a result of its revolt against St Kitts, Anguilla remains a British overseas territory. Under the Anguilla constitution, which came into effect in 1982, one queen-appointed representative acts as the British governor and presides over the appointed Executive Council and an elected Anguilla House of Assembly.