First settled by the Amerindian peoples from South America about 4000 years ago, then by a succession of tribes and cultures, including the Arawaks, Anguilla was called ‘Malliouhana,’ meaning arrow-shaped sea serpent. The Arawaks remained on the island for millennia, as evidenced by many cave sites with petroglyphs and artifacts such as shell axes, flint blades and conch-shell drinking receptacles 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 with 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, such as 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, such as sailing, fishing and private farming, began to crop up on the island. In 1834 Britain abolished slavery in its colonies, and many Anguillan ex-slaves took up positions as farmers, sailors and fishers.
In 1958, 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 Anguillans forced the Royal St Kitts Police Force off the island for good.
As a result of its revolt against St Kitts, Anguilla returned to Britain and once again became an 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 Executive Council and an elected Anguilla House of Assembly.