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St. Helena

Updated on December 3, 2020


The Portuguese actually discovered the island they named St. Helena.

It really was an uninhabited island, (unlike other so called discoveries which have large populations who didn't know they were lost.).

The island had fresh water,fruit trees and wonderfully fertile soil. It sat about about 1,200 miles off the Coast of Africa in the South Atlantic and possessed a wonderful climate.

One would have assumed that any explorer finding such a lush environment would call it paradise and settle down, importing their families, and keeping the location secret.

The Portuguese were not particularly interested.

Yeah, they did toss up a chapel, a few houses, but created no permanent settlement. They, did, however keep the island and its location, secret.

This was done as St. Helena was the perfect place to stop and take on water
when doing a round the horn of Africa trip.

The secrecy of St. Helena continued until Sir Francis Drake found the island during his 1577 - 1580 circumnavigation of the world.

How the English got Control

Upon return to England, Francis Drake organised a set of ships to advance on St. Helena.

He assumed that those who held it would fight to the death to keep it for it was very much a perfect island.

Surprisingly for Francis Drake, there was no fight. The Spanish and Portuguese
had numerous bases on the Coast of Africa. Why fight for an island in the middle of nowhere?

St. Helena was given up without a fight.

The British and their Dutch allies satisfied themselves with desecration of the chapel, killing the livestock and destroying the Plantations.

Subsequently the Dutch decided to claim St. Helena in 1633, but never used it
and abandoned it in 1651 thaving created a colony on the Cape of Good Hope.

Oliver Cromwell granted the English East India Company a charter in 1657.
In 1659 the first Governor arrived. A fort was built, houses went up.

In 1660, the Monarchy in England was restored. The East India Company received a Royal Charter.

Problems in Paradise

The first problem in settling St. Helena was getting immigrants.

One would have thought people would be anxious to migrate to this beautiful
island, but they were not.

It was too far from everywhere, beyond the beyond as it was thought.

The second problem was that those who settled there did little more than
destroy the ecology. St. Helena was deforested, suffered, soil erosion,
then drought.

It was the destruction of paradise.

In the year 1723 there were 1,110 people on the island. More than half were slaves.

To save the island many steps were taken. There was the planting of trees,
the building of a hospital, controlling alcohol, and passing useful legislation.

In 1770 the island began to experience a period of prosperity.

In 1792 the importation of slaves was made illegal, and the Governor
suggested using Chinese labour. The first group arrived in 1810 and
there were about 600 Chinese eight years later.

In 1814 there were 3,507 inhabitants who lived on St. Helena.

Mostly Ignored

So here is Paradise.

If taken care of, if loved, even a little, the island would be the perfect place to live.

It wasn't, in fact, it's fame came from it's use as a 'prison' when in 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled there.

A census done In 1817 revealed 821 white inhabitant,618 Chinese indentured labourers, 500 free blacks, and 1,540 slaves.

In 1821, when Napoleon died, the white population, most of whom were there to guard Napoleon was reduced.

In 1832 slavery was abolished.

A year later, St. Helena became a Crown colony.

Cost cutting measures implemented by the Colonial power triggered migration.

The introduction of steam ships, which didn't rely on the trade winds, caused less and less ships to call at St. Helena.

In 1840 the British Navy used St. Helena as a port to suppress the African slave trade. Over 15,000 freed slaves were landed there.

In 1901 there were over 6,000 Boer prisoners, and the population of the island was 9,850.

Modern Times

During the First World War a flax factory was situated on the island of St. Helena creating a great deal of income.

Flax had great value and so the island was rich and strong.

This value of St. Helena continued until 1951 when the price of flax reached the highest level.

Unfortunately for St. Helena, synthetic fibers began to replace flax, and the demand dropped.

In 1965 the factory was closed.

Television was introduced, showing a host of American, British and other
programs. Today, there is Internet and a Cricket team.

An Airport was built in 2015 but there's a question about 'wind sheer' which has prevented its commercial use.

It is still a very remote and beautiful island.


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