/ 32.333; -64.750
Anthem: "God Save the Queen" (official)
"Hail to Bermuda" (unofficial)
"All the Bermudians" (unofficial)
Location of Bermuda (circled in red)
in the Atlantic Ocean (blue)
|Status||British Overseas Territory|
/ 32.300; -64.783
|Ethnic groups (2010)||
|Government||Parliamentary dependency under constitutional monarchy|
• Responsible Minister (UK)
• Upper house
• Lower house
|House of Assembly|
|53.2 km (20.5 sq mi) (230th)|
• Water (%)
• 2010 census
|1,275/km (3,302.2/sq mi) (9th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2014 estimate|
|$5.60 billion (161th (estimate))|
• Per capita
|Currency||Bermudian dollar (BMD)|
|Time zone||AST (UTC–4)|
• Summer (DST)
|Date format||dd/mm/yyyy (AD)|
|Drives on the||left|
|ISO 3166 code||BM|
Bermuda (pronunciation: //) is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is approximately 1,070 km (665 mi) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; 1,236 km (768 mi) south of Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia; and 1,578 km (981 mi) north of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The capital city is Hamilton. Bermuda is an associate member of Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The first person known to have reached Bermuda was the Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermúdez in 1503, after whom the islands are named. He claimed the islands for the Spanish Empire. Bermúdez never landed on the islands, but made two visits to the archipelago, of which he created a recognisable map. Shipwrecked Portuguese mariners are now thought to have been responsible for the 1543 inscription on Portuguese Rock (previously called Spanish Rock). Subsequent Spanish or other European parties are believed to have released pigs there, which had become feral and abundant on the island by the time European settlement began. In 1609, the English Virginia Company, which had established Jamestown in Virginia two years earlier, permanently settled Bermuda in the aftermath of a hurricane, when the crew and passengers of the Sea Venture steered the ship onto the surrounding reef to prevent its sinking, then landed ashore.
The island was administered as an extension of Virginia by the Company until 1614. Its spin-off, the Somers Isles Company, took over in 1615 and managed the colony until 1684. At that time, the company's charter was revoked, and the English Crown took over administration. The islands became a British colony following the 1707 unification of the parliaments of Scotland and England, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain. After 1949, when Newfoundland became part of Canada, Bermuda became the oldest remaining British overseas territory. After the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, Bermuda became the most populous British territory. Its first capital, St. George's, was established in 1612.
Bermuda's economy is based on offshore insurance and reinsurance, and tourism, the two largest economic sectors. Bermuda had one of the world's highest GDP per capita for most of the 20th century and several years beyond. Recently, its economic status has been affected by the global recession. It has a subtropical climate. Bermuda is the northernmost point of the Bermuda Triangle, a region of sea in which, according to legend, a number of aircraft and surface vessels have disappeared under supposedly unexplained or mysterious circumstances. The island is in the hurricane belt and prone to severe weather. However, it is somewhat protected from the full force of a hurricane by the coral reef that surrounds the island.
Bermuda is a group of low-forming volcanoes in the Atlantic Ocean, near the western edge of the Sargasso Sea, roughly 578 nautical miles (1,070 km (665 mi)) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and about 594 nautical miles (1,100 km (684 mi)) southeast of Martha's Vineyard of Massachusetts. It is 898 nautical miles (1,664 km (1,034 mi)) northeast of Miami, Florida, and 667 nautical miles (1,236 km (768 mi)) from Cape Sable Island, in Nova Scotia, Canada. The islands lie due east of Fripp Island, South Carolina, west-northwest of Cape Verde, southeast of New York City, New York, north-northwest of Brazil and north of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The archipelago is formed by high points on the rim of the caldera of a submarine volcano that forms a seamount. The volcano is one part of a range that was formed as part of the same process that formed the floor of the Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The top of the seamount has gone through periods of complete submergence, during which its limestone cap was formed by marine organisms, and in the Ice Ages the entire caldera was above sea level, forming an island of approximately two hundred square miles.
It has 103 km (64 mi) of coastline. The two incorporated municipalities in Bermuda are the City of Hamilton and the Town of St George. Bermuda is divided into nine parishes, which have some localities called villages, such as Flatts Village and Somerset Village.
Although usually referred to in the singular, the territory consists of 181 islands, with a total area of 53.3 square kilometres (20.6 square miles). The largest island is Main Island, sometimes called Bermuda. Eight of the larger islands are connected by bridges, and are the populated islands. Compiling a list of the islands is often complicated, as many have more than one name (as does the entire archipelago, which has also been known historically as La Garza, Virgineola, and the Isle of Devils. Somers Isles is often rendered "Somers Islands", or mistaken for "Summer Isles").
Despite the small land mass, place names are repeated: two islands named Long Island, three bays named Long Bay (on Somerset, Main, and Cooper's islands), two Horseshoe Bays (one in Southampton, on the Main Island, the other at Morgan's Point, formerly Tucker's Island), two roads through cuttings called Khyber Pass, one in Warwick, the other in St. George's Parish, and two St George's Towns on St George's Island in St George's Parish, each known as St George's. There is a Hamilton Parish in addition to the City of Hamilton in Pembroke Parish.
Bermuda is divided into nine parishes and two incorporated municipalities.
Bermuda's nine parishes are:
Bermuda's two incorporated municipalities are:
Bermuda's two informal villages are:
Jones Village in Warwick, Cashew City (St. George's), Claytown (Hamilton), Middle Town (Pembroke), and Tucker's Town (St. George's) are neighbourhoods; Dandy Town and North Village are sports clubs, and Harbour View Village is a small public housing development.
Bermuda's pink sand beaches and clear, cerulean blue ocean waters are popular with tourists. Many of Bermuda's few hotels are located along the south shore of the island. In addition to its beaches, there are a number of sightseeing attractions. Historic St George's is a designated World Heritage Site. Scuba divers can explore numerous wrecks and coral reefs in relatively shallow water (typically 30–40 ft or 9–12 m in depth), with virtually unlimited visibility. Many nearby reefs are readily accessible from shore by snorkellers, especially at Church Bay.
Bermuda's most popular visitor attraction is the Royal Naval Dockyard, which includes the Bermuda Maritime Museum. Other attractions include the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, the Botanical Gardens and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, lighthouses, and the Crystal Caves with stalactites and underground saltwater pools. Admiralty House is another nice attraction where locals and visitors enjoy cliff diving into the beautiful blue water and where you are able to see Dockyard in the distance.
It is not possible to rent a car on the island; public transport and taxis are available or visitors can hire scooters for use as private transport.
Bermuda has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), bordering on a tropical climate owing to the island's very mild winters. Bermuda is warmed by the nearby Gulf Stream, and low latitude. The islands do get some cooler temperatures in January, February, and March (average 63 °F (17 °C)-64 °F (18 °C)). The lowest temperature on record was 43 °F (6 °C); even Key West, Florida, at about north latitude 24-1/2 degrees, has a cooler record low temperature, of 41 degrees F. There has never been snow, a frost or freeze on record in Bermuda.
Summertime heat index in Bermuda can be high, although mid-August temperatures rarely exceed 30 °C (86 °F). The highest recorded temperature was 34 °C (93 °F) in August 1989.
Bermuda is in the hurricane belt. Along the Gulf Stream, it is often directly in the path of hurricanes recurving in the westerlies, although they usually begin to weaken as they approach Bermuda, whose small size means that direct landfalls of hurricanes are rare. The most recent hurricanes to cause significant damage to Bermuda were category 2 Hurricane Gonzalo on 18 October 2014 and category 3 Hurricane Nicole on 14 October 2016, both of which struck the island directly. Before that, Hurricane Fabian on 5 September 2003 was the last major hurricane to hit Bermuda directly.
The only source of fresh water in Bermuda is rainfall, which is collected on roofs and catchments (or drawn from underground lenses) and stored in tanks. Each dwelling usually has at least one of these tanks forming part of its foundation. The law requires that each household collect rainwater that is piped down from the roof of each house.
The average annual temperature of the Atlantic Ocean around Bermuda is 22.8 °C (73.0 °F), from 18.6 °C (65.5 °F) in February to 28.2 °C (82.8 °F) in August.
Bermuda is on the same parallel as the Portuguese archipelago Madeira a few time zones farther east in the Atlantic. The two archipelagos are the only land in the Atlantic on the 32nd parallel north. The two have a relatively similar climate, but Bermuda has warmer and wetter summers, much like the typical subtropical coastal region of North America on similar parallels. However, winter temperatures between Hamilton and Madeira's capital Funchal are nearly identical.
|Climate data for Hamilton – capital of Bermuda|
|Record high °C (°F)||25.4
|Average high °C (°F)||20.4
|Daily mean °C (°F)||18.2
|Average low °C (°F)||16.1
|Record low °C (°F)||7.8
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||128.5
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 inch)||17||15||15||12||10||12||13||14||15||16||13||17||171|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||142.9||144.5||185.7||228.1||248.1||257.2||281.0||274.1||220.1||197.5||170.3||142.5||2,492|
|Source: Bermuda Weather Service (sun, 1999–2010)|
When discovered, Bermuda was uninhabited and mostly dominated by forests of Bermuda cedar, with mangrove marshes along its shores. Only 165 of the island's current 1,000 vascular plant species are considered native. Of those, 15, including the eponymous cedar, are endemic.
Settlers have introduced many species of palm trees to Bermuda. Coconut palms are found on Bermuda, making it the northernmost location for the natural growth of this species. However, the climate is usually too cool to allow the palms to properly set fruit.
The only indigenous mammals of Bermuda are five species of bats, all of which are also found in the eastern United States: Lasionycteris noctivagans, Lasiurus borealis, Lasiurus cinereus, Lasiurus seminolus and Perimyotis subflavus. Other commonly known fauna of Bermuda include its national bird, the Bermuda petrel or cahow. It was rediscovered in 1951 after having been thought extinct since the 1620s. It is important as an example of a Lazarus species. The government has a programme to protect it, including restoration of a habitat area. The Bermuda rock skink was long thought to have been the only indigenous land vertebrate of Bermuda, discounting the marine turtles that lay their eggs on its beaches. Recently through genetic DNA studies, scientists have discovered that a species of turtle, the diamondback terrapin, previously thought to have been introduced, pre-dated the arrival of humans in the archipelago. As this species spends most of its time in brackish ponds, some question whether it should be classified as a land vertebrate to compete with the skink's unique status.
Bermuda's 2010 Census put Bermuda's population at 64,237 and, with an area of 53.2 km (20.5 sq mi), it has a calculated population density of 1207/km².
The racial makeup of Bermuda as recorded by the 2010 census, was 54% black, 31% white, 8% multiracial, 4% Asian, and 4% other races, although these numbers are based on self-identification, and the majority of those who answered "black" have any mixture of black, white and indigenous American ancestry. Native-born Bermudians made up 67% of the population, compared to 29% non-natives.
The island experienced large-scale immigration over the 20th century, especially after the Second World War. Bermuda has a diverse population including both those with relatively deep roots in Bermuda extending back for centuries, and newer communities whose ancestry results from recent immigration, especially from Britain, North America, the West Indies, and the Portuguese Atlantic islands (especially the Azores), although these groups are steadily merging. About 46% of the population identified themselves with Bermudian ancestry in 2010, which was a decrease from the 51% who did so in the 2000 census. Those identifying with British ancestry dropped by 1% to 11% (although those born in Britain remain the largest non-native group at 3,942 persons). The number of people born in Canada declined by 13%. Those who reported West Indian ancestry were 13%. The number of people born in the West Indies actually increased by 538. A significant segment of the population is of Portuguese ancestry (10%), the result of immigration over the past 160 years, of whom 79% have residency status.
The deeper ancestral demography of Bermuda's population has been obscured by the ethnic homogenisation of the last four centuries. There is effectively no ethnic distinction between black and white Bermudians, other than those characterising recent immigrant communities. In the 17th century, this was not so. For the first hundred years of settlement, white Protestants of English heritage were the distinct majority, with white minorities of Irish (the native language of many of whom can be assumed to have been Gaelic) and Scots sent to Bermuda after the English invasions of their homelands that followed the English Civil War. Non-white minorities included Spanish-speaking, free (indentured) blacks from the West Indies, black chattel slaves primarily captured from Spanish and Portuguese ships by Bermudian privateers, and Native Americans, primarily from the Algonquian and other tribes of the Atlantic seaboard, but possibly from as far away as Mexico. By the 19th century, the white ethnically-English Bermudians had lost their numerical advantage. Despite the banning of the importation of Irish, and the repeated attempts to force free blacks to emigrate and the owners of black slaves to export them, the merging of the various minority groups, along with some of the white English, had resulted in a new demographic group, "coloured" (which term, in Bermuda, referred to anyone not wholly of European ancestry) Bermudians, gaining a slight majority. Any child born before or since then to one coloured and one white parent has been added to the coloured statistic. Most of those historically described as "coloured" are today described as "black", or "of African heritage", which obscures their non-African heritage (those previously described as "coloured" who were not of African ancestry had been very few, though the numbers of South Asians, particularly, is now growing. The number of persons born in Asian countries doubled between the 2000 and the 2010 censuses), blacks have remained in the majority, with new white immigration from Portugal, Britain and elsewhere countered by black immigration from the West Indies.
Bermuda's modern black population contains more than one demographic group. Although the number of residents born in Africa is very small, it has tripled between 2000 and 2010 (this group also includes non-blacks). The majority of blacks in Bermuda can be termed "Bermudian blacks", whose ancestry dates back centuries between the 17th century and the end of slavery in 1834, Bermuda's black population was self-sustaining, with its growth resulting largely from natural expansion. This contrasts to the enslaved blacks of the plantation colonies, who were subjected to conditions so harsh as to drop their birth rate below the death rate, and slaveholders in the United States and the West Indies found it necessary to continue importing more enslaved blacks from Africa until the end of slavery (the same had been true for the Native Americans that the Africans had replaced on the New World plantations). The indigenous populations of many West Indian islands, and much of the South-East of what is now the United States that had survived the 16th- and 17th-century epidemics of European-introduced diseases then became the victims of large-scale slave raiding, with much of the region completely depopulated. When the supply of indigenous slaves ran out, the slaveholders looked to Africa. The ancestry of Bermuda's black population is distinguished from that of the British West Indian black population in two ways: firstly, the higher degree of European and Native American admixture; secondly, the source of the African ancestry.
In the British West Indian islands (and also in the United States), the majority of enslaved blacks brought across the Atlantic came from West Africa (roughly between modern Senegal and Ghana). Very little of Bermuda's original black emigration came from this area. The first blacks to arrive in Bermuda in any numbers were free blacks from Spanish-speaking areas of the West Indies, and most of the remainder were recently enslaved Africans captured from the Spanish and Portuguese. As Spain and Portugal sourced most of their slaves from South-West Africa (the Portuguese through ports in modern-day Angola; the Spanish purchased most of their African slaves from Portuguese traders, and from Arabs whose slave trading was centred in Zanzibar). Genetic studies have consequently shown that the African ancestry of black Bermudians (other than those resulting from recent immigration from the British West Indian islands) is largely from the a band across southern Africa, from Angola to Mozambique, which is similar to what is revealed in Latin America, but distinctly different from the blacks of the West Indies and the United States.
Most of Bermuda's black population trace some of their ancestry to Native Americans, although awareness of this is largely limited to St David's Islanders and most who have such ancestry are unaware of it. During the colonial period, hundreds of Native Americans were shipped to Bermuda. The best-known examples were the Algonquian peoples who were exiled from the southern New England colonies and sold into slavery in the 17th century, notably in the aftermaths of the Pequot and King Philip's wars.
Today several thousand expatriate workers, principally from Britain, Canada, the West Indies, South Africa and the US, reside in Bermuda. They are primarily engaged in specialised professions such as accounting, finance, and insurance. Others are employed in various trades, such as hotels, restaurants, construction, and landscaping services. Of the total workforce of 38,947 persons in 2005, government employment figures stated that 11,223 (29%) were non-Bermudians.
The predominant language on Bermuda is Bermudian English. It exhibits characteristics of British, West Indian, and American English. Perhaps most interesting is its closeness to acrolectal English compared to other varieties in the West Indies.
British English spellings and conventions are used in print media and formal written communications.
Portuguese is also spoken in Bermuda; this is owing to immigration from Portugal, particularly from the Azores and Cape Verde.
Protestant 46.2% (includes Anglican 15.8%, African Methodist Episcopal 8.6%, Seventh Day Adventist 6.7, Pentecostal 3.5%, Methodist 2.7%, Presbyterian 2.0 %, Church of God 1.6%, Baptist 1.2%, Salvation Army 1.1%, Brethren 1.0%, other Protestant 2.0%), Roman Catholic 14.5%, Jehovah's Witness 1.3%, other Christian 9.1%, Muslim 1%, other 3.9%, none 17.8%, unspecified 6.2% (2010 est.).
Bermuda's culture is a mixture of the various sources of its population: Native American, Spanish-Caribbean, English, Irish, and Scots cultures were evident in the 17th century, and became part of the dominant British culture. English is the primary and official language. Due to 160 years of immigration from Portuguese Atlantic islands (primarily the Azores, though also from Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands), a portion of the population also speaks Portuguese. There are strong British influences, together with Afro-Caribbean ones.
A second wave of immigration from the West Indies was sustained throughout the 20th century; the more recent arrivals have primarily come from English-speaking countries, also bringing aspects of their cultures. This new infusion of West Indians has both accelerated social and political change, and diversified Bermuda's culture.
The first notable, and historically important, book credited to a Bermudian was The History of Mary Prince, a slave narrative by Mary Prince. It is thought to have contributed to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Ernest Graham Ingham, an expatriate author, published his books at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 20th century, numerous books were written and published locally, though few were directed at a wider market than Bermuda. (The latter consisted primarily of scholarly works rather than creative writing). The novelist Brian Burland (1931– 2010) achieved a degree of success and acclaim internationally. More recently, Angela Barry has won critical recognition for her published fiction.
Bermuda's proximity to the United States, as well as its origin as part of Virginia, means that many aspects of US culture are reflected in, or incorporated into, Bermudian culture. Many non-Bermudian writers have also made Bermuda their home, or have had homes here, including A. J. Cronin and F. Van Wyck Mason, who wrote on Bermudian subjects.
Actors such as Ernest Trimingham, Oona O'Neill, Earl Cameron, Diana Dill, Lena Headey, Will Kempe, and most famously, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, grew up here or have lived here as adults. Other native or resident film and television figures in Bermuda include producer Arthur Rankin, Jr., and cartoonist and Muppet man, Michael Frith.
West Indian musicians introduced calypso music when Bermuda's tourist industry was expanded with the increase of visitors brought by post-Second World War aviation. While calypso appealed more to the visitors than to the locals, reggae has been embraced by many Bermudians since the 1970s with the influx of Jamaican immigrants.
Bermuda's early literature consisted of non-Bermudian writers commenting on the island. These included John Smith's The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624), and Edmund Waller's poem, "Battle of the Summer Islands" (1645).
Music and dance are important in Bermuda. Noted musicians have included local icons The Talbot Brothers, who performed for many decades both in Bermuda and the United States, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show; jazz pianist Lance Hayward, singer-songwriter Heather Nova and her brother Mishka; tenor Gary Burgess, classical musician and conductor Kenneth Amis and, more recently, dancehall artist Collie Buddz.
Bermuda is the only placename in the New World specifically mentioned in the works of Shakespeare, in The Tempest in Act 1, Scene 2, line 230: "the still-vexed Bermoothes".
The dances of the colourful Gombey dancers, seen at many events, are strongly influenced by African, Caribbean, Native American and British cultural traditions. In summer 2001 they performed in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall (see photo).
Bermudian Gina Swainson was crowned "Miss World" in 1979.
Bermuda hosts an annual international film festival, which shows many independent films. One of the founders is film producer and director Arthur Rankin, Jr., co-founder of the Rankin/Bass production company.
Bermuda watercolours painted by local artists are sold at various galleries. Hand-carved cedar sculptures are another speciality. One such 7 ft (2.1 m) sculpture, created by Bermudian sculptor Chesley Trott, is installed at the airport's baggage claim area. In 2010, his sculpture The Arrival was unveiled near the bay to commemorate the freeing of slaves from the American brig Enterprise in 1835. Local artwork may also be viewed at several galleries around the island. Alfred Birdsey was one of the more famous and talented watercolourists; his impressionistic landscapes of Hamilton, St George's and the surrounding sailboats, homes, and bays of Bermuda are world-renowned.
Local resident Tom Butterfield founded the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in 1986, initially featuring works about Bermuda by artists from other countries. He began with pieces by American artists, such as Winslow Homer, Charles Demuth, and Georgia O'Keeffe, who had lived and worked here. He has increasingly supported the development of local artists, arts education, and the arts scene. In 2008, the museum opened its new building, constructed within the Botanic Gardens.
Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez. It is mentioned in Legatio Babylonica, published in 1511 by historian Pedro Mártir de Anglería, and was also included on Spanish charts of that year. Both Spanish and Portuguese ships used the islands as a replenishment spot to take on fresh meat and water. Legends arose of spirits and devils, now thought to have stemmed from the calls of raucous birds (most likely the Bermuda petrel, or Cahow) and the loud noise heard at night from wild hogs. Combined with the frequent storm-wracked conditions and the dangerous reefs, the archipelago became known as the Isle of Devils. Neither Spain nor Portugal attempted to settle it.
For the next century, the island is believed to have been visited frequently, but not settled. After the failure of the first two English colonies in Virginia, a more determined effort was initiated by King James I of England, who granted a Royal Charter to the Virginia Company.
It established a colony at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Two years later, a flotilla of seven ships left England under the Company's Admiral, Sir George Somers, and the new Governor of Jamestown, Sir Thomas Gates, with several hundred settlers, food and supplies to relieve the colony of Jamestown. Somers had previous experience sailing with both Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. The flotilla was broken up by a storm. As the flagship, the Sea Venture, was taking on water, Somers drove it onto Bermuda's reef and gained the shores safely with smaller boats – all 150 passengers and a dog survived. (William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, in which the character Ariel refers to the "still-vex'd Bermoothes" (I.ii.229), is thought to have been inspired by William Strachey's account of this shipwreck.) They stayed 10 months, starting a new settlement and building two small ships to sail to Jamestown. The group of islands were claimed for the English Crown, and the charter of the Virginia Company was later extended to include them.
In 1610, all but three of the survivors of the Sea Venture sailed on to Jamestown. Among them was John Rolfe, whose wife and child died and were buried in Bermuda. Later in Jamestown he married Pocahontas, a daughter of the powerful Powhatan, leader of a large confederation of about 30 Algonquian-speaking tribes in coastal Virginia. In 1612, the English began intentional settlement of Bermuda with the arrival of the ship Plough. St. George's was settled that year and designated as Bermuda's first capital. It is the oldest continually inhabited English town in the New World.
In 1615, the colony was passed to a new company, the Somers Isles Company, named after the admiral who saved his passengers from the Sea Venture. Many Virginian place names refer to the archipelago, such as Bermuda City, and Bermuda Hundred. The first English coins to circulate in North America were struck in Bermuda.
Because of its limited land area, Bermuda has had difficulty with over-population. In the first two centuries of settlement, it relied on steady human emigration to keep the population manageable. Before the American Revolution more than ten thousand Bermudians (over half of the total population through the years) gradually emigrated, primarily to the Southern United States. As Great Britain displaced Spain as the dominant European imperial power, it opened up more land for colonial development. A steady trickle of outward migration continued. With seafaring the only real industry in the early decades, by the end of the 18th century, at least a third of the island's manpower was at sea at any one time.
The archipelago's limited land area and resources led to the creation of what may be the earliest conservation laws of the New World. In 1616 and 1620 acts were passed banning the hunting of certain birds and young tortoises.
In 1649, the English Civil War was in its seventh year and King Charles I was beheaded in Whitehall, London. In Bermuda, related tensions resulted in civil war on the island; it was ended by militias. The majority of colonists developed a strong sense of devotion to the Crown. Dissenters, such as Puritans and Independents, were pushed to settle the Bahamas under William Sayle. Bermuda and Virginia, as well as Antigua and Barbados were, however, the subjects of an Act of the Rump Parliament which was essentially a declaration of war. An Act prohibiting Trade with Barbadoes, Virginia, Bermuda and Antego, specified that:
due punishment [be] inflicted upon the said Delinquents, do Declare all and every the said persons in Barbada's, Antego, Bermuda's and Virginia, that have contrived, abetted, aided or assisted those horrid Rebellions, or have since willingly joyned with them, to be notorious Robbers and Traitors, and such as by the Law of Nations are not to be permitted any maner of Commerce or Traffique with any people whatsoever; and do forbid to all maner of persons, Foreiners, and others, all maner of Commerce, Traffique and Correspondency whatsoever, to be used or held with the said Rebels in the Barbada's, Bermuda's, Virginia and Antego, or either of them.
All Ships that Trade with the Rebels may be surprised. Goods and tackle of such ships not to be embezeled, till judgement in the Admiralty.; Two or three of the Officers of every ship to be examined upon oath.
The Royalist colonies were also threatened with invasion. The Government of Bermuda eventually reached an agreement with the Parliamentarians in England which left the status quo in Bermuda.
In the 17th century, the Somers Isles Company suppressed shipbuilding, as it needed Bermudians to farm in order for it to generate income from the land. Agricultural production met with limited success, however, due to limited areas available for cultivation, high alkilinity of the soil, and the depletion of the soil quality that resulted from excessive farming. The Bermuda cedar boxes used to ship tobacco to England were reportedly worth more than their contents. The colony of Virginia far surpassed Bermuda in both quality and quantity of tobacco produced. Bermudians began to turn to maritime trades relatively early in the 17th century, but the Somers Isles Company used all its authority to suppress turning away from agriculture. This interference led to the islanders demanding, and receiving, the revocation of the Company's charter in 1684, and the Company was dissolved.
Bermudians rapidly abandoned agriculture for shipbuilding, replanting farmland with the native juniper (Juniperus bermudiana, called Bermuda cedar) trees that grew thickly over the entire island. Establishing effective control over the Turks Islands, Bermudians deforested their landscape to begin the salt trade. It became the world's largest and remained the cornerstone of Bermuda's economy for the next century.
Bermudian sailors and merchants relied on more than the export of salt, however. They vigorously pursued whaling, privateering, and the merchant trade. Vessels sailed the normal shipping routes, but were required to engage an enemy vessel no matter the size or strength. As a result, many ships were destroyed.
The Bermuda sloop became highly regarded for its speed and manoeuverability, and was soon adapted for service with the Royal Navy. The Bermuda sloop HMS Pickle carried despatches of the victory at Trafalgar, and news of the death of Admiral Nelson, to England.
American independence led to great changes for Bermuda. Prior to the war, with no useful landmass or natural resources, Bermuda was largely ignored and left to its own devices by the London government. By being so deeply involved in trade, Bermuda merchants and financiers had played roles out of proportion to the colony's size in relation to the development of the Triangle Trade, and the trans-Atlantic English and British empires.
Its people were settlers and founders of new colonies, especially in the American South. Its merchant fleet and a web of expatriate Bermudian merchants dominated trade through a number of American Atlantic Seaboard ports and the West Indies. Bermudians fished for cod on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, and were involved in the lumber industry in Central America. Most importantly, they dominated the North American salt trade with de facto control of the Turks Islands.
The close economic, family, and historical ties ensured Bermudians were strongly sympathetic with the rebels at the start of the War. They supplied the rebels illegally with ships, salt and gunpowder. As the war progressed, economic realities caused Bermudians to seize opportunities; they turned to privateering against the Americans.
The end of the war, however, was to cause profound change in Bermuda, though some of those changes would take decades to crystallise. Following the war, with the buildup of Naval and military forces in Bermuda, the primary leg of the Bermudian economy became defence infrastructure. Even after tourism began later in the 19th century, Bermuda remained, in the eyes of London, a base more than a colony. The Crown strengthened its political and economic ties to Bermuda, and the colony's independence on the world stage was diminished.
The war had removed Bermuda's primary trading partners, the American colonies, from the empire, and dealt a harsh blow to Bermuda's merchant shipping trade. This also suffered due to the deforestation of Bermuda, as well as the advent of metal ships and steam propulsion, for which it did not have raw materials. During the course of the following War of 1812, the primary market for Bermuda's salt disappeared as the Americans developed their own sources. Control of the Turks had passed to the Bahamas in 1819.
By the end of the 19th century, except for naval and military facilities, Bermuda was considered a quiet, rustic backwater. It had been superseded in the development of the English-speaking Atlantic world.
After the American Revolution, the Royal Navy began improving the harbours. In 1811, it started building the large dockyard on Ireland Island, in the west of the chain, to serve as its principal naval base guarding the western Atlantic Ocean shipping lanes. To guard it, the British Army built up a large Bermuda Garrison, and heavily fortified the archipelago.
During the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States, the British attacks on Washington, D.C. and the Chesapeake were planned and launched from Bermuda, where the headquarters of the Royal Navy's North American Station had recently been moved from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1816, James Arnold, the son of Benedict Arnold, fortified Bermuda's Royal Naval Dockyard against possible US attacks. Today, the National Museum of Bermuda, which incorporates Bermuda's Maritime Museum, occupies the Keep of the Royal Naval Dockyard, including the Commissioner's House, and exhibits artifacts of the base's military history.
As a result of Bermuda's proximity to the southeastern US coast, during the American Civil War Confederate States blockade runners frequently used it as a stopping point base for runs to and from the Southern states or England to evade Union naval vessels on blockade patrol, delivering much needed war goods from England and for transporting much needed cotton back to England. The old Globe Hotel in St George's, which was a centre of intrigue for Confederate agents, is preserved as a public museum.
During the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902), 5,000 Boer prisoners of war were housed on five islands of Bermuda. They were located according to their views of the war. "Bitterenders" (Afrikaans: Bittereinders), who refused to pledge allegiance to the British Crown, were interned on Darrell's Island and closely guarded. Other islands such as Morgan's Island held 884 men, including 27 officers; Tucker's Island held 809 Boer prisoners, Burt's Island 607, and Port's Island held 35.
The New York Times reported an attempted mutiny by Boer prisoners of war en route to Bermuda and that martial law was enacted on Darrell's Island, in addition to the escape of three Boer prisoners to mainland Bermuda, a young Boer soldier stowed away and sailed from Bermuda to New York on the steamship Trinidad.
The most famous escapee was the Boer prisoner of war Captain Fritz Joubert Duquesne who was serving a life sentence for "conspiracy against the British government and on (the charge of) espionage.". On the night of 25 June 1902, Duquesne slipped out of his tent, worked his way over a barbed-wire fence, swam 1.5 miles (2.4 km) past patrol boats and bright spot lights, through storm-wracked, using the distant Gibbs Hill Lighthouse for navigation until he arrived ashore on the main island. From there he escaped to the port of St. George's and a week later, he stowed away on a boat heading to Baltimore, Maryland. He settled in the US and later became a spy for Germany in both World Wars. He claimed to be responsible for the 1916 death of Lord Herbert Kitchener in the sinking of HMS Hampshire, the head of the British Army who had also commanded British forces in South Africa during the second Boer War, but this had resulted from a mine. In 1942, Col. Duquesne was arrested by the FBI for leading the Duquesne Spy Ring, which still to this day the largest espionage case in the history of the United States.
Lord Kitchener's brother, Lt. Gen. Sir Walter Kitchener, had been the Governor of Bermuda from 1908 until his death in 1912. His son, Major Hal Kitchener, bought Hinson's Island (with his partner, Major Hemming, another First World War aviator). The island had formerly been part of the Boer POW camp, housing teenaged prisoners from 1901 to 1902.
In the early 20th century, as modern transport and communication systems developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for American, Canadian and British tourists arriving by sea. The United States 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act enacted protective tariffs. It cut off Bermuda's once-thriving agricultural export trade to the US and encouraged its development of tourism as an alternative.
After several failed attempts, in 1930 the first aeroplane reached Bermuda. A Stinson Detroiter seaplane flying from New York City, it had to land twice in the ocean: once because of darkness and again to refuel. Navigation and weather forecasting improved in 1933 when the Royal Air Force (then responsible for providing equipment and personnel for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm) established a station at the Royal Naval Dockyard to repair (and supply replacement) float planes for the fleet. In 1936 Luft Hansa began to experiment with seaplane flights from Berlin via the Azores with continuation to New York City.
In 1937, Imperial Airways and Pan American World Airways began operating scheduled flying-boat airline services from New York and Baltimore to Darrell's Island, Bermuda. In 1948, regularly scheduled commercial airline service by land-based aeroplanes began to Kindley Field (now L.F. Wade International Airport), helping tourism to reach its peak in the 1960s–1970s. By the end of the 1970s, international business had supplanted tourism as the dominant sector of Bermuda's economy (see ).
The Royal Naval Dockyard, and the attendant military garrison, continued to be important to Bermuda's economy until the mid-20th century. In addition to considerable building work, the armed forces needed to source food and other materials from local vendors. Beginning in World War II, US military installations also were located in Bermuda (see "Military" section below and Military of Bermuda).
Universal adult suffrage and the development of a two-party political system occurred in the 1960s. Before universal suffrage, adopted as part of Bermuda's Constitution in 1967, voting was dependent on a certain level of property ownership. (see "Politics" section, below, and Politics of Bermuda). On 10 March 1973, the Governor of Bermuda Richard Sharples was assassinated by local Black Power militants during a period of civil unrest.
The current ruling party in Bermuda is the One Bermuda Alliance, commonly referred to as the OBA. They were voted into power in December 2012 after Bermuda was ruled by the Progressive Labour Party for 14 years, from 1998 to 2012. Michael Dunkley is currently (2016) the Premier of Bermuda and David Burt is the opposition party leader (PLP leader).
Executive authority in Bermuda is vested in the monarch and is exercised on her behalf by the Governor. The governor is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British Government. The current governor is John Rankin; he was sworn in on 5 December 2016. There is also a Deputy Governor (currently David Arkley JP). Defence and foreign affairs are carried out by the United Kingdom, which also retains responsibility to ensure good government. It must approve any changes to the Constitution of Bermuda. Bermuda is classified as a British Overseas Territory, but it is the oldest British colony. In 1620, a Royal Assent granted Bermuda limited self-governance; its Parliament is the fifth oldest in the world, behind the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Tynwald of the Isle of Man, the Althing of Iceland, and Sejm of Poland. Of these, only Bermuda's and the Isle of Man's Tynwald have been in continuous existence since 1620.
The Constitution of Bermuda came into force on 1 June 1967; it was amended in 1989 and 2003. The head of government is the premier. A cabinet is nominated by the premier and appointed officially by the governor. The legislative branch consists of a bicameral parliament modelled on the Westminster system. The Senate is the upper house, consisting of 11 members appointed by the governor on the advice of the premier and the leader of the opposition. The House of Assembly, or lower house, has 36 members, elected by the eligible voting populace in secret ballot to represent geographically defined constituencies.
Elections must be called at no more than five-year intervals. The most recent took place on 17 December 2012. Following this election, the One Bermuda Alliance took power, with Craig Cannonier succeeding Paula Cox, of the Progressive Labour Party, as Premier.
There are few accredited diplomats in Bermuda. The United States maintains the largest diplomatic mission in Bermuda, comprising both the United States Consulate and the US Customs and Border Protection Services at the L.F. Wade International Airport. The current US Consul General is Robert Settje, who took office in August 2012. The United States is Bermuda's largest trading partner (providing over 71% of total imports, 85% of tourist visitors, and an estimated $163 billion of US capital in the Bermuda insurance/re-insurance industry), and an estimated 5% of Bermuda residents are US citizens, representing 14% of all foreign-born persons. The American diplomatic presence is an important element in the Bermuda political landscape.
As a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda does not have a seat in the United Nations; it is represented by Britain in matters of foreign affairs. To promote its economic interests abroad, Bermuda maintains representative offices in cities such as London and Washington, D.C.
Bermuda's proximity to the US had made it attractive as the site for summit conferences between British Prime Ministers and US Presidents. The first summit was held in December 1953, at the insistence of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to discuss relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Participants included Churchill, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and French Premier Joseph Laniel.
In 1957, a second summit conference was held. The British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, arrived earlier than President Eisenhower, to demonstrate they were meeting on British territory, as tensions were still high regarding the previous year's conflict over the Suez Canal. Macmillan returned in 1961 for the third summit with President John F. Kennedy. The meeting was called to discuss Cold War tensions arising from construction of the Berlin Wall.
The most recent summit conference in Bermuda between the two powers occurred in 1990, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met US President George H.W. Bush.
Direct meetings between the President of the United States and the Premier of Bermuda have been rare. The most recent meeting was on 23 June 2008, between Premier Ewart Brown and President George W. Bush. Prior to this, the leaders of Bermuda and the United States had not met at the White House since a 1996 meeting between Premier David Saul and President Bill Clinton.
Bermuda has also joined several other nations in efforts to protect the Sargasso Sea.
On 11 June 2009, four Uyghurs who had been held in the United States Guantánamo Bay detention camp, in Cuba, were transferred to Bermuda. The four men were among 22 Uyghurs who claimed to be refugees, who were captured in 2001 in Pakistan after fleeing the American aerial bombardment of Afghanistan. They were accused of training to assist the Taliban's military. They were cleared as safe for release from Guantánamo in 2005 or 2006, but US domestic law prohibited deporting them back to China, their country of citizenship, because the US government determined that China was likely to violate their human rights.
In September 2008, the men were cleared of all suspicion and Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington ordered their release. Congressional opposition to their admittance to the United States was very strong and the US failed to find a home for them until Bermuda and Palau agreed to accept the 22 men in June 2009.
The secret bilateral discussions that led to prisoner transfers between the US and the devolved Bermuda government sparked diplomatic ire from the United Kingdom, which was not consulted on the move despite Bermuda being a British territory. The British Foreign Office issued the following statement:
We've underlined to the Bermuda Government that they should have consulted with the United Kingdom as to whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue, for which the Bermuda Government do not have delegated responsibility. We have made clear to the Bermuda Government the need for a security assessment, which we are now helping them to carry out, and we will decide on further steps as appropriate.
As of May 2013, the four Uyghurs still lived in Bermuda; but they have not been given Bermudian status and remain stateless, posing problems for emergency medical situations and finding certain jobs. However, granting them Bermudian status would require a change in Bermudian laws, and the issue has prompted a major debate within Bermuda's parliament on what steps should be taken.
Bermuda became an associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 2003 despite not being in the Caribbean region.
This is a socio-economic bloc of nations in or near the Caribbean Sea. Other outlying member states include the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the Republic of Suriname in South America, along with Belize in Central America. The Turks and Caicos Islands, an associate member of CARICOM, and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, a full member of CARICOM, are in the Atlantic, but near to the Caribbean. Other nearby nations or territories, such as the United States, are not members (although the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has observer status, and the United States Virgin Islands announced in 2007 they would seek ties with CARICOM). Bermuda, at roughly a thousand miles from the Caribbean Sea, has little trade with, and little economically in common with, the region, and joined primarily to strengthen cultural links.
Among some scholars, "the Caribbean" can be a socio-historical category, commonly referring to a cultural zone characterised by the legacy of slavery (a characteristic Bermuda shared with the Caribbean and the US) and the plantation system (which did not exist in Bermuda). It embraces the islands and parts of the neighbouring continent, and may be extended to include the Caribbean Diaspora overseas.
Bermuda was colonised by the English as an extension of Virginia and has long had close ties with the US Atlantic Seaboard and Canadian Maritimes as well as the UK. It had a history of African slavery, although Britain abolished it decades before the US. Since the 20th century, there has been considerable immigration to Bermuda from the West Indies, as well as continued immigration from Portuguese Atlantic islands. Unlike immigrants from British colonies in the West Indies, the latter immigrants have had greater difficulty in becoming permanent residents as they lacked British citizenship, mostly spoke no English, and required renewal of work permits to remain beyond an initial period. From the 1950s onwards, Bermuda relaxed its immigration laws, allowing increased immigration from Britain and Canada. Some Black politicians accused the government of using this device to counter the West Indian immigration of previous decades.
The PLP, the party in government when the decision to join CARICOM was made, has been dominated for decades by West Indians and their descendants. (The prominent roles of West Indians among Bermuda's black politicians and labour activists predated party politics in Bermuda, as exemplified by Dr. E. F. Gordon). The late PLP leader, Dame Lois Browne-Evans, and her Trinidadian-born husband, John Evans (who co-founded the West Indian Association of Bermuda in 1976), were prominent members of this group. They have emphasised Bermuda's cultural connections with the West Indies. Many Bermudians, both black and white, who lack family connections to the West Indies have objected to this emphasis.
Opinion polls conducted by Bermudian newspapers, The Royal Gazette and The Bermuda Sun, showed clear majorities of Bermudians to be opposed to joining CARICOM. The UBP, which had been in Government from 1968 to 1998, objected that joining CARICOM was detrimental to Bermuda's interests:
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