History of the British Indian Ocean Territory

British Indian Ocean Territory

The CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO, main island DIEGO GARCIA, was discovered by the Portuguese in the early 16th century; they also christened the islands. In the 18th century the French claimed the islands; they were administrated as a sideland of MAURITIUS.
Mauritius became British in 1814, and with it the Chagos Archipelago, which had a small population of a few hundred. Called the ILOIS, mainly of Indian descent, they lived of COCOS PALM cultivation and fishery. They speak a CREOLE language.
In 1966 the islands were separated from Mauritius, which became independent, and placed under the Seychelles. When the latter became independent in 1976, the Chagos Archipelago again was separated and the British Indian Ocean Territory was created. The entire population (c. 2000) was evacuated to Mauritius in 1973; in 1971 the island of Diego Garcia was leased to the US Navy, which turned it into a military base. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran 1979 the US Navy invested heavily in the construction and equipment of facilities on the island.
For many decades, the Ilois dwelled on Mauritius, a forgotten people. After a long legal struggle, they were granted the right to return (2001).

Chagosians, from emuseum

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 24th 2002, last revised on November 3rd 2004

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