The first inhabitants in Tortola history were the Ciboney, and later, the Arawak and Carib Indians, who participated in a popular activity that has lasted throughout Tortola history - sailing. Europeans began making their mark upon Tortola history after 1493, when Christopher Columbus spotted the British and US Virgin Islands and named them after the 11,000 virgins of 4th- century martyr St. Ursula. Though the Spanish made a few attempts to settle the area, famous pirates like Bluebeard and Captain Kidd were the first genuine inhabitants of the islands during this period in Tortola history, using the area's secluded coves as bases from which to plunder Spanish galleons carrying gold and other riches.
Tortola history took on a distinct European flavor in the 17th century when the British, who had successfully usurped control of the area from the Dutch, established a permanent plantation colony on Tortola and the surrounding islands. The sugar industry dominated Tortola history over the next 150 years, faltering only in the mid 1800s with the abolition of slavery. A large proportion of the white landowning population left the BVI with this economic downturn, but the political relationship between the island and the British continued and has lasted through Tortola history until today. Tortola is governed by a British-appointed leader, but many of the island's affairs remain controlled from London. The recent course of Tortola history has seen an economy led by thriving offshore banking and tourist industries, though both are controlled to ensure that Tortola remains an unspoiled paradise.
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