The World of Info

SEYCHELLES
History

History

Early history

People have lived in the Seychelles only for about 200 years. Before that, Arabs visited the islands between the 9th and 14th centuries. Evidence of this can be found on the island of Silhouette where there are several tombs of Arab design. The first time the Seychelles were mentioned was in the year 851 by Arab sailors. The first description of the islands dates from 1501. It was the great explorer Vasco da Gama himself who drew the islands on the sea chart "Gran Portulan". The Portuguese called the islands "Ilhas de Almirante". The first comprehensive description of the islands dates from 1609 and was made by John Jordain.

In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the Seychelles were frequently visited by pirates, who secured their booty on the islands. In the mid-18th century, piracy declined because the French and English started sending naval ships to the Indian Ocean to protect their trading vessels.

French Period

Around 1735 the governor general of Ile de France (now Mauritius) and Bourbon (now Reunion), Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais sent two ships to the Seychelles. They were given the task of mapping the islands and taking stock of the possibilities for possible colonisation. In 1744 Mahé de La Bourdonnais sent another ship to the Seychelles to make a better map of the islands. Captain Picault named the largest island after his client, Mahé. He reported that Mahé would be suitable as a colony and that rice could be grown there. However, nothing was done with the report. In 1756, it was decided to officially take possession of the Seychelles for France. They wanted to develop agriculture there and use it as a base for ships on their way to India. On 1 November 1756 the islands officially became French territory. The islands were named after the then minister of finance of Louis XV, de Séchelles. Colonisation was delayed by the war between the English and the French.

It was not until 1770 that the first colonists were sent to Ste. Anne. This group did little for the "good" cause and a second group was soon sent. These two groups quarreled and this led to the departure of part of the first group in 1772. In order to get things back in order, a new commander was sent to Mahé: De Romainville. He immediately had several buildings constructed. The settlement was called l'Etablissement du Roi and was later to develop into the capital Victoria. The French Revolution also left its mark on the Seychelles. The inhabitants established an island council that decided to only deal with the government in Paris. It was also decided that new plantations would initially be allocated to the inhabitants of the islands. And they continued to keep slaves. Something that was heavily criticised in France at the time. According to the population, slaves were badly needed to be able to exploit the labour on the cotton and coconut palm plantations. This led to the fact that in 1804 there were 3015 slaves on a population of about 4000!

English period

In 1794, the Seychelles received a new commander: Jean-Baptiste Queau de Quinssy. He was soon suffering the consequences of the Napoleonic Wars between England and France. The English were tired of the constant attacks on merchant ships by French pirates.

They decided to take the Seychelles in order to dismantle the pirates' base of operations. Resisting this was pointless for the French because there were hardly any means of defence. After negotiations between De Quinssy and the English, it was agreed that De Quinssy could continue to govern the islands. This agreement was very advantageous for the Seychelles because trade with both France and England flourished, particularly as a result of the rise in the export of canned goods.

In 1811, the English left a permanent representative on Mahé. De Quinssy, however, remained as governor, even after the Seychelles were allocated to England by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The name was also changed: Séchelles became Seychelles. Even De Quinssy changed his name to De Quincy.

For the time being, the English struggle against slavery was in vain. Only after the English intercepted slave ships, thereby seriously damaging the slave trade, did things start to move. The English were helped by the collapse of the cotton trade in 1830 and the subsequent economic crisis in the Seychelles. Slavery was finally officially abolished in 1835, making the economic situation even worse.

This changed in 1860 when slaves from Arab slave ships were freed by the English. These slaves were brought by the English to the Seychelles and worked on the coconut plantations. Around this time, the first paved roads were built, schools were constructed and the capital was named after Queen Victoria. In 1862, Mahé was hit by torrential rains and heavy winds, which killed 75 people and largely destroyed the capital, Victoria. In 1872, a separate constitution and a legislative body, the Council of Plenipotentiaries, were established. Only whites were entitled to vote (plantocracy). In 1883, the Seychelles were hit by a smallpox epidemic, which cost the lives of hundreds of Seychellois. From around 1900 onwards the Seychelles became a place of exile for recalcitrant figures from all over the British Empire. Makarios III of Cyprus was one of the most famous exiles in the 1950s.

The First World War and the worldwide economic crisis of the 1930s caused the economy to stagnate and incomes in the Seychelles to fall sharply. The Second World War did not affect the Seychelles, although they were prepared for a possible attack. After the Second World War, the call for independence quickly became louder, to the displeasure of the planters' organisation. It was not until 1967 that real general elections were held and the neck-and-neck battle was between two major parties, the Seychelles People's United Party of President Albert René and the Seychelles Democratic Party of James Mancham. Mancham eventually became Prime Minister.

Independence

On 29 June 1976, Seychelles became fully independent and Mancham became the first President of Seychelles. René became Prime Minister.

In June 1977, René staged a bloodless coup while Mancham was abroad. A new constitution was adopted and there was only room for one party, René's party. Mancham and many members of his party then left the Seychelles. Many companies were subsequently nationalised and the ties with the Soviet Union, Cuba and China became increasingly close.

Thanks to tourism, the Seychelles fared better and better, and in 1984 and 1989 René was re-elected president. A coup d'état in 1981 (with the cooperation of South Africa?) was nipped in the bud and failed. The economic recession at the end of the 1980s and the Gulf War in 1991 dealt a heavy blow to the economy. The foreign debt rose to over 150 million dollars. The people began to grumble and René was forced to make concessions. Some large hotels were privatised and political exiles were allowed to return. In 1992, a multi-party system was allowed again, which the returnee James Mancham immediately used and founded the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, the 1993 elections were again won by René by a large margin. The constitution was changed again. One of the provisions was that the president could be re-elected a maximum of three times.

The new government's most important plan was to try to reduce its dependence on tourism. Thus, the port of Victoria was expanded and the multinational Heinz was lured to the island for its fishing industry. Despite allegations of corruption in the 1998 elections, René's party again won with an overwhelming majority. Of the 34 seats, 30 were for René's party.

21th century

In the parliamentary elections of December 2002, the opposition National Party of Seychelles (SNP) increased its number of seats tenfold, rising from one to eleven. The opposition thus achieved its best result since the reintroduction of the multi-party system in 1991. The remaining 23 seats in parliament went to the Seychelles Progressive People's Front (SPPF) of President France-Albert René. After 27 years in power, he resigned in April 2004 and was succeeded by Vice-President James Michel. In the new elections in July 2006, there were 3 potential candidates, the incumbent President James Michel, the leader of the main opposition party (SNP), Wavel Ramkalawan and an independent candidate Mr. Philippe Boullé.

ames Michel was re-elected President of Seychelles with a small majority in the elections. In May 2007, the ruling SPPF won the early elections, which were held because of a dispute over whether political parties should be allowed to have their own radio station. In November 2008, the IMF came to Seychelles' aid with a loan for the stalled economy. In January 2009, President Michel asked the creditors for a debt reduction. In November 2009, the Seychelles became increasingly troubled by Somali pirates and allowed EU troops to fight them from its territory. In May 2011, Michel again wins the presidential election. In the years 2012 and 2013, the fight against the pirates continues unabated. In December 2015, Michel narrowly won the presidential election for a third term. In May 2016, the archipelago joined the select group of African countries that no longer criminalise homosexuality. In November 2017, Seychelles played a role in the "Paradise Papers" whereby politicians and celebrities were involved in financially dubious deals. Wavel Ramkalawan, an Anglican priest and former opposition presidential candidate, won the October 2020 elections in the first peaceful transfer of presidential power between the different parties since independence in 1976. His party also won the parliamentary elections.


Sources

Carpin, S. / De Seychellen reisgids
Elmar

Houtzager, D. / Seychellen
Gottmer

Pahlen, C. von der / Seychellen
Deltas

Singh, S. / Mauritius, RĂ©union & Seychelles
Lonely Planet

Tingay, P. / Seychellen
Van Reemst

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated January 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info