Seychelles: History

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Seychelles History

The Seychelles has no indigenous population. Austronesian or Arab seafarers were probably the first to see the islands, but the first recorded sighting was made by Portuguese Admiral Vasco De Gama. The first recorded landing was made by the English crew of the Ascension in 1609, a harbinger of events to come.

Pirates navigating between Africa and Asia were the most frequent visitors for the next 100 years, and stories of buried treasure still circulate despite a lack of actual discoveries. The French asserted ownership over the Seychelles in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance. Modern-day visitors can view the possession stone at Mahé's Museum of Victoria.

The English contested French control between 1794 and 1811. Shrewd Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy, French administrator of Seychelles during the years of conflict, would preserve the peace by temporarily surrendering on several occasions, only to raise the French flag when the English sailed away. England assumed full control in 1812 and the population grew rapidly.

Seychelles was declared a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903 and adopted its first constitution in 1970. Independence was declared in 1976 and Seychelles became a republic within the Commonwealth. First president James R. Mancham was ousted just a year after inauguration; his government was replaced by a socialist one-party system led by France Albert René. In 1991, a multi-party assembly was established, and free elections were held in 1993. The current president of Seychelles is James A. Michel. The country is considered politically stable.