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Early history up to the 19th century

The island has been inhabited since 4000 B.C., since about 800 by the Arowak Indians.

In the 14th century, the Carib Indians came, who were much more warlike and practised cannibalism. They called the island Soualiga (Salt Island). The island is said to have been discovered by Columbus on 11 November (Saint Martin) 1493. The Spaniards left the island alone at first. Around 1630, the French and the Dutch settled there, mainly because of the salt supply, but they were driven away by the Spaniards. It was not until 1644 that the Spanish gave up their rights.

On 23 March 1648, France and the Republic of the Seven United Provinces signed an agreement (Treaty of Concordia), by which the island was divided. It was not until 1817 that this agreement became final; the island had already changed hands about 16 times.


In the first referendum on October 14, 1994, in which all countries voted to retain the Netherlands Antilles, a large minority (33%) on Sint Maarten was already in favour of a 'separate status' as a Country within the Kingdom. On November 18, 1999, Sint Maarten was hit by Hurricane Lenny, which lingered over the island for two days and caused great devastation. It caused 366 mm of rainfall and resulted in nine deaths, three on the island and six offshore.

Partly as a result of the ever-increasing cooperation problems within the Antilles, the island government of Sint Maarten held a second referendum on 23 June 2000, in which it recommended separate status as the solution to these problems. By a large majority, the population opted for the status of autonomous country, whereupon St. Maarten's politicians pressed for constitutional reform within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Referendum result 23 June 2000 Option Votes %

The outcome of this referendum thus formed the basis for discussions and referendums on the other islands. In the autumn of 2006, it was finally agreed with the Netherlands that Sint Maarten would be given the status of country within the Kingdom. This status will take effect on Kingdom Day, 15 December 2008.

Separate status

Since 10 October 2010, the Netherlands Antilles no longer exists in its present form. Since that date, Curacao and Sint Maarten have been independent countries within the Kingdom. Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are now special municipalities of the Netherlands.

At the end of September 2010, the United People's Party (UP) and Democratic Party (DP) agreed on the formation of a government. It became the first government of Sint Maarten after the island became an autonomous country within the Kingdom on 10 October 2010.

The Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist on 10 October 2010. Aruba was already an independent country; Curaçao and Sint Maarten became so on that date. Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius became special Dutch municipalities.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands now comprises four countries with their own governments: Aruba, the Netherlands, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have a separate status within the Netherlands and are called the Caribbean Netherlands. Together with Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, they form the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Recent history

On 14 June 2013, the third Wescot-Williams Cabinet was sworn in at Governor Eugène Holiday's office, a coalition between the DP and Theo Heyliger's UP.

Between 12 and 21 November 2013, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visited the six islands in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On Wednesday, November 13, it was St. Maarten's turn.

In September 2017, the island was hit extremely hard by hurricane Irma, a hurricane of the very worst category. The damage is enormous; in addition to the personal loss, it will take years before the damage is repaired. Consideration will also have to be given to rebuilding in a storm-proof manner.



Derksen,G / Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba

Soesbergen, M. van / Bovenwindse eilanden

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info