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Falkland Islands South Africa
First posted on May 12th 2002, last revised on September 2nd 2007

History of St. Helena : Narrative . References : Online Secondary Sources . Online Primary Sources . Bibliographic and Print Sources

Saint Helena . Saint Helena and Dependencies . Ascension . Tristan da Cunha

Islands of the South Atlantic
name size (km2) discovered history of ownership
St. Helena
Tristan da Cunha
Fernando de Noronha
Falkland Islands
South Georgia
South Orkney Islands
South Shetland Islands




1501 Portuguese
1502 Portuguese, 1651 British
1506 Portuguese
1763 British
1775 British

SAINT HELENA . In 1645, the Government of the United Provinces (i.e. the Dutch Republic) claimed possession of the island; it was neither settled not fortified. In 1659 England claimed formal possession of St. Helena. A fortress was constructed; the small town soon to be called Jamestown emerged.
In 1673, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674), the Dutch briefly occupied the island. Following the recovery, the British crown granted St. Helena to the East India Company on Dec. 16th 1673. St. Helena gained in importance as a stopover for ships sailing around the Cape of Good Hope to the East Indies and back.
St. Helena, a sparsely populated small island located in the South Atlantic, hundreds of km from the next coast, became famous when Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled there in 1815; he died on the island in 1821. Until 1833, St. Helena was administrated by the East India Company (E.I.C.), since 1834 it was a crown colony. In 1838 the annual subsidy of L.90,000 St. Helena used to receive was cancelled. Many St. Helenans emigrated to the Cape Colony. In 1840 Napoleon's body was returned to France. In the 1840es the island suffered from the destruction caused by the white ant, accidentally imported by a Brazilean slave ship. In 1847 the Anglican diocese of Cape Town (Cape Colony) was founded; St. Helena fell in this diocese, until a separate Diocese of St. Helena was established in 1859, which was to include Tristan da Cunha, Ascension, Rio de Janeiro and the Falklands (the latter until 1869).
In 1851 the Saint Herald Advocate, the island's first newspaper, was printed.
In the 1850es coffee was grown on St. Helena.
St. Helena became strategically and economically interesting for a number of reasons : (1) the rising number of steamships, if to be used on long distance routes, required a network of coal stations, and (2) whaling, from 1830 onward, became big business, and whalers needed harbours to pick up fresh water etc., too. Norway and the U.S. maintained consulates on St. Helena.
Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, on St. Helena in 1832. The replacement of slaves by indentured labourers began on St. Helena comparatively early; indentured labourers from China were brought in beginning in 1810. Today, about half of the island's population is predominantly of African descent, about a quarter predominantly of Chinese descent.
The St. Helena Regiment of Infantry, established in, or before, 1803, was disbanded in 1834, reestablished in 1842 and again disbanded in 1863. It participated in the failed attempt to take Buenos Aires in 1806.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 reduced St. Helena's importance as a possible stopover for steamers on the route to and from India.
In 1874 New Zealand flax was introduced; it was to become the island's major crop, used to make ropes etc. From 1890 to 1897 Dinizulu kaCetshwayo, son of Zulu king Cetshwayo, lived on St. Helena in enforced exile. During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), a large P.O.W. camp was maintained on St. Helena, with c.6000 inmates.
In 1899, St. Helena was connected by underwater telegraph cable with Cape Town. In 1914 education for children up to 14 years was made compulsory. In the decade preceding World War I, the island's flax industry was in crisis; during the war the industry recovered.

SAINT HELENA AND DEPENDENCIES, SINCE 1922 . The administration of too many tiny individual colonies being too costly, Ascension was placed under St. Helena in 1922, Tristan da Cunha in 1938. In World War II, Ascension was leased to the U.S., which constructed an airbase on the island.
After World War II, some nations unilaterally extended their sovereignty over segments of sea (fishery) / ocean floor (mineral deposits) within a distance of 200 nautical miles from the coast. This highly increased the strategic value of islands located far from any coast, such as it was the case with the South Atlantic islands.
A 1961 volcanic eruption on Tristan da Cunha destroyed the island's crayfish cannery, which was rebuilt shortly afterward. In 1967, Radio St. Helena began broadcasting.
St. Helena, as a stop for ships sailing through the South Atlantic, lost in importance as passenger transport shifted from ocean liners to airlines. St. Helena does not have an airport; Ascension has a military airport.
During the Falkland War, the Royal Air Force used Ascension as a base for strikes against Argentinian positions on the Falkland Islands.
The economy of St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha was based on the cultivation of New Zealand flax, the production of an alcoholic spirit made of cactus fruit, on military bases on Ascension and Saint Helena, on the sales of postage stamps issued for Ascension, St. Helena and for Tristan da Cunha, and on subsidies paid by London.
The economy of St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha was based on the cultivation of New Zealand flax, the production of an alcoholic spirit made of cactus fruit, on military bases on Ascension and Saint Helena, on the sales of postage stamps issued for Ascension, St. Helena and for Tristan da Cunha, and on subsidies paid by London.
In 1999 the construction of an airport on St. Helena was begun; completion is scheduled for 2010. In 2002, the St. Helenans were granted full British citizenship.

ASCENSION . Ascension was discovered by the Portuguese in 1503, if not in 1501. The island was described as barren, inhabited by seabirds and the shores visited by giant-size turtles. The Portuguese released goats on the island.
The first effort to establish a permanent settlement (island capital Georgetown) was made by the British in 1815, in order to prevent the French from establishing a base from where to launch an expedition to liberate Napoleon, held captive on St. Helena. In 1816 Britain took formal possession of both Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (hitherto Portuguese). The remote islands would soon become strategically and economically interesting for a number of reasons : (1) the rising number of steamships, if to be used on long distance routes, required a network of coal stations, and (2) whaling, from 1830 onward, became big business, and whalers needed harbours to pick up fresh water etc., too.
Statesman's Year Book 1898 : Ascension .. is entirely under the control and jurisdiction of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and is used as a coaling, victualling, and store depot for Her Majesty's ships on the West Coast of Africa station. There is an excellent sanitarium up Green Mountain for crews of ships visiting the island, whose health is impaired from service on the coast. There is a farm of 8 acres under cultivation, producing vegetables and fruit for the garrison. The population, which consists entirely of officers, seamen and marines, with their wives and families, and about 177 Kroomen, numbers in all about 434. Garrison station, Georgetown, on northeast coast.
The island is the resort of the sea turtle, which come in thousands to lay their eggs in the sand. In good seasons from 200 to 300 are taken, averaging from 600 to 800 lbs. in weight; they are stored in ponds, and eventually killed and distributed among the people, a few being sent to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. Exports from the United Kingdom to Ascension (1896) 3,425 L., mostly stores.

In 1922 Ascension administratively was placed under St. Helena. The issuance of Ascension postage stamps began in 1922.

TRISTAN DA CUNHA . Tristan da Cunha was discovered by the Portuguese in 1506. In 1656 the V.O.C. sent a ship to the island to see if it was suitable for the establishment of a military post, but it was deemed unsuitable due to the lack of a natural harbour. The island was briefly inhabited by British sailors 1790-1791, and from 1810 onward by British and U.S. sailors, who made a living by a combination of growing crops, keeping livestock and hunting seal. In 1812, Britain and the U.S. being at war, the U.S. Fleet used Tristan da Cunha as a base from where to strike against British vessels (for which the route around the Cape of Good Hope was of major importance).
The island was annexed by Great Britain in 1816; Tristan was garisoned 1816-1817. In 1827 the first women were brought in. Seal-fishing was the most lucrative occupation; the island was visited by whalers; whaling peaked from 1830 to 1860. In 1856 a quarter of the island population (25 out of 100) emigrated to the U.S., in 1857 a further 45 emigrated to the Cape Colony. The arrival of rats in 1885 negatively affected the growing of crops. The population of the island group ranged between about 60 and about 100, many of the young becoming sailors or migrating to the Cape Colony / South Africa.
Statesman's Year Book 1895 : The population consists mainly of the families of shipwrecked sailors and wives from St. Helena, and numbered about 61 in 1894. There are 600 head of cattle and about 500 sheep on the island, and both beef and mutton are excellent. Beans, potatoes and apples are grown. The only dwellings are a few cottages on one side of the mountain..
In 1938, Tristan da Cunha administratively was placed under St. Helena.
The issuance of postage stamps for Tristan da Cunha began in 1952.

Country Profiles . Links . Organizations . Accounts of History . Politics . Military History . Economic History . Social History . Ethnography
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Country Profiles Modern from CIA World Factbook; BBC Country Profiles, from Wikipedia
Links General from Saint Helena Homepage
Category : St. Helena, from Wikipedia
on History The Saint Helena Virtual Library and Archive
Category : History of St. Helena, from Wikipedia
Organizations Saint Helena National Trust
Historical Dictionaries
Timelines Historical Chronology, from St. Helena
Accounts of History Modern by Paul Carroll, by Barry Weaver, from Wikipedia
Historical T.H. Brooke, A History of the Island of St. Helena from its Discovery by the Portuguese to the Year 1806, 1808, Saint Helena Virtual Archive and Library
R.M. Martin, History of the British possessions in the Indian & Atlantic Oceans; comprising Ceylon, Penang, Malacca, Sincapore, the Falkland Islands, St. Helena, Ascension, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Cape Coast Castle 1837; St. Helena and Ascension Island pp.184-213
Specific Periods W. Forsyth et al., History of the captivity of Napoleon at St. Helena; from the letters and journals of the late Lieut.-Gen. Sir Hudson Lowe, and offical documents not before made public, vol.1 1853, IA, vol.2 1853, IA, vol.3 1853, IA
P. Fremeaux et al., The drama of Saint Helena 1910, IA
Politics Politics of Saint Helena, from Wikipedia; Political Resources on the Net : Saint Helena
Military St. Helena Regiment, from Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth, Internet Archive Wayback Machine
St. Helena is a Tiny Island, from South African Military History Society, decent article on St. Helena's history, many details
Forces War Records, St. Helena Rifles
Economy & Finances Entry Saint Helena, from Global History of Currencies, by Bryan Taylor
About St. Helena, from the Island of St. Helena Coffee Company
Social History
Ethnography Languages of Saint Helena, from Ethnologue
Religion Anglican Diocese of Saint Helena, from Netministries
Article : Diocese of Saint Helena (Anglican), from Wikipedia
History of Regions Articles Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island, from Wikipedia
History of Ascension, by Ascension Heritage Society (Graham Avis)
Article History of Tristan da Cunha, from Wikipedia
Local History Article Jamestown, Saint Helena, from Wikipedia
Article Georgetown, Ascension, from Wikipedia
Institutions History of Radio St. Helena, from Saint Helena Homepage
A Brief History of Media on Saint Helena, from Saint FM
St. Helena, from Airline History
Cultural History
Biographies E.A.D. las Cases, Mee?morial de Sainte Helene. Journal of the private life and conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at Saint Helena vol.1 1823, vol.2 pt.1 1823, vol.2 pt.2 1823, vol.3 1823, vol.4 1823, vol.5 1823, vol.6 1823, vol.7 1823, vol.8 1823, IA
Memoires du docteur Antommarchi, ou, Les derniers momens de Napoleon vol.l, 1825, vol.2, 1825, IA
Environmental History

Historical Data . Statistical Data . Documents Newspapers . Yearbooks . Image Databanks . Archival Deposits . Laws . Historiography
Document Collections . Historical Maps . Historical Encyclopedia Articles . Travelogues . Institutions . National Symbols
Historical Data Lists of Statesmen from World Statesmen (B. Cahoon), from Rulers (B. Schemmel)
Lists of Bishops Article : Diocese of Saint Helena (Anglican), from Wikipedia; has list of bishops
Diocese of Saint Helena, List of Bishops
Statistical Data Responsible Institution
Population Figures St. Helena, from Population Statistics (Jan Lahmeyer)
Election Results from IFES Election Guide
Documents Historical Newspapers The London Gazette Archive
Historic Newspaper Articles
Modern Newspapers Links from Abyz Newslinks
Online Yearbooks - St. Helena Entries Statesman's Year-Book, Ascension, St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha 1890, pp.161, 185-186, IA, 1891, pp.161, 188-189, IA, 1892, pp.166, 190-192, IA, 1894, pp.166, 195-196, IA, 1895, pp.166, 195-196, IA, 1896, pp.166, 195-196, IA, 1898, pp.166, 198-199, IA, 1899, pp.180, 214-215, IA, 1903, pp.190, 235-236, IA, 1913, pp.174, 188-189, IA, 1919, pp.178, 194-195, IA, 1921, pp.178, 197-198, IA
Image Databanks License Plates, from Francoplaque
Benjamin Grant's 1889 Photographs of St. Helena, Saint Helena Virtual Library and Archive
Archival Deposits National Archives, UK
Constitutions, Laws
Document Surveys
Document Collections The Saint Helena Virtual Library and Archive
Individual Documents The Saint Helena Charter of 1673, Saint Helena Virtual Library and Archive
Napoleon's appeal to the British nation, on his treatment at Saint Helena 1817, IA
Historical Maps responsible institutions The Department of Surveyor-General , National Mapping Agencies in Africa
collections Maps and Views of Saint Helena, from Saint Helena Virtual Library and Archive
St. Helena, Modern
St. Helena, Contemporary Map : Islands in the Gulf of Guinea, van Keulen 1720, from Mappe di Citta Italiane ed altre mappe antiche diverse
Encyclopedia Entries
Secular Articles Ascension, Sankt Helena, Tristan da Cunha, from Meyers Konversationslexikon 4th edition 1885-1892, Retro Bibliothek
Articles Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, EB 1911, Classic Encyclopedia, from Internet Arechive Wayback Machine
Geographical Tristan d'Acunha, St. Helena, Ascension Island, pp.109-111 in vol.3 of C. Malte-Brun, Universal Geography, 1827, IA
Parliamentary Debates Hansard (British Parliament)
Tour Guides, Travelogues
Residence Memoirs
Exhibition Catalogues
Institutions Archives The Saint Helena Archives, from Saint Helena Government Website
Endangered Archives Programme : EAP 524 : To survey the East India Company and Colonial archives of Jamestown, St Helena, South Atlantic
Musea Museum of Saint Helena
Official Symbols Flags, Coats of Arms Flag, from FOTW; Coat of Arms, from International Civic Heraldry
Coins, Banknotes Saint Helena banknotes, from World Currency Museum; from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
Stamps Rare St. Helena Stamps, from Sandafayre Stamp Gallery; St. Helena stamps 1856-1912, from Stamps Catalogue 1840-1920 by Evert Klaseboer
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society

Bibliographies . Online Libraries . Thesis Servers . Online Journals . General Accounts . Specific Topics . Historical Dictionaries . Statistical Data . Yearbooks
Bibliographies general Search ISBN Database
RHS Bibliography
UK National Archive Online Library
on St. Helena survey of bibliographies
bibliographic database
general bibliographies Article : Bibliography of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, from Wikipedia
annual bibliographies
specialist bibliographies
serial publications
general bibliographies
St. Helena entries
booksellers Miles Apart
Online Libraries general Google Books; Internet Archives; Gutenberg Library Online; HathiTrust; Gallica
on St. Helena The St. Helena Virtual Archive and Library, Books
Online Journals
General Accounts
Specific Topics
Historical Dictionaries
Statistical Data IHS : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics. The Americas 1750-2000, London : Palgrave 2003 [G]
Yearbook Entries Britannica Book of the Year St. Helena, 1913 pp.652 [G]
British West Africa, 1946 pp.151-152, 1947 pp.154-155, 1948 pp.142-143, 1949 pp.126-128 [G]
St. Helena, 1950, p.610, 1952, p.613, 1953, p.621, 1954, p.624, 1955, p.673, 1956, p.609, 1958, p.611, 1959, p.604, 1960, p.606, 1961, p.612, 1962, pp.604-605, 1963, p.712 [G]
Commonwealth of Nations, 1964, pp.268-269 [G]
Colonies and Other Dependencies, 1965, p.253, 1966, p.204, 1967, p.219, 1968, p.217 [G]
Dependent States : St. Helena, 1969, p.278, 1970, p.278, 1971, p.268, 1972 p.244, 1973 p.236, 1974 p.252, 1976 p.253, 1977 p.253, 1978 p.306, 1979 p.306, 1980 p.304, 1981 p.304, 1982 p.298, 1983 p.298, 1984 p.294, 1985 p.603, 1988 p.518, 1990 p.534 [G]
Statesman's Yearbook St. Helena, 1895 pp.195-196, 1898 pp.198-199, 1901 p.222, 1902 pp.230-231, 1905 pp.241-242, 1910 pp.183-184, 1918 pp.189-190, 1919 pp.194-195, 1924 pp.187, 203-205, 1925 pp.207-209, 1926 pp.211-213, 1928 pp.209-211, 1929 pp.209-211, 1932 pp.213-215, 1937 pp.232-234, 1942 pp.228-229, 1943 pp.224-226, 1970-1971 pp.152-154, 1973-1974 pp.462-464, 1975-1976 pp.464-465, 1976-1977 pp.471-472, 1978-1979 pp.1029-1030, 1979-1980 pp.1036-1038, 1980-1981 pp.1029-1030, 1981-1982 pp.1032-1034, 1982-1983 pp.1034-1036, 1983-1984 pp.1027-1028, 1984-1985 pp.1026-1027, 1985-1986 pp.1026-1027, 1987-1988 pp.1030-1031, 1988-1989 pp.1034-1035, 1989-1990 pp.1046-1047, 1990-1991 pp.1047-1048, 1991-1992 pp.1047-1048, 1992-1993 pp.1132-1133, 1993-1994 pp.1130-1131, 1994-1995 pp.1130-1131, 1995-1996 pp.1122-1123, 1996-1997 pp.1098-1099 [G]
United Kingdom : St. Helena, 1997-1998 pp.1385-1386, 1998-1999 pp.1506-1507, 2000 pp.1696-1698, 2001 pp.1661-1663, 2002 pp.1721-1723, 2003 pp.1724-1726, 2004 pp.1740-1742, 2005 pp.1754-1756 [G]
Ascension, 1895 p.166, 1898 p.166, 1901 pp.180-181, 1902 p.187, 1905 p.192, 1910 p.170, 1919 p.178, 1924 p.187 [G]
St. Helena : Ascension, 1925 p.208, 1926 p.212, 1928 p.210, 1929 p.211, 1932 p.214 , 1937 p.233, 1942 p.229, 1943 p.225 [G]
Tristan da Cunha, 1895 p.196, 1898 p.199 [G]
St. Helena : Tristan da Cunha, 1901 pp.222-223, 1902 p.231, 1905 p.242, 1910 p.184, 1919 p.195, 1924 p.204, 1925 p.208, 1926 p.212, 1928 p.210, 1929 p.211, 1932 p.214, 1937 p.233, 1942 p.229, 1943 p.225 [G]
Americana Annual St. Helena, 1927 p.778, 1928 p.711, 1930 p.697, 1931 pp.693-694, 1932 p.649, 1933 pp.700-701, 1934 p.538, 1935 p.644, 1936 p.660, 1937 p.634, 1938 p.625, 1939 p.688, 1940 p.695, 1943 p.647, 1944 p.623, 1945 p.636, 1946 pp.659-660, 1947 p.626, 1957 p.682, 1961 p.651, 1962 p.657, 1963 p.585, 1964 p.580 [G]
Other Article : Ascension, in : The International Year Book 1899 p.67 [G]
Article : St. Helena, in : New International Year Book 1919 p.599, 1920 p.608, 1921 p.643, 1922 p.654, 1923 p.675, 1924 p.664, 1925 pp.627-628, 1926 p.666, 1928 p.674, 1929 pp.741-742, 1930 pp.701-702, 1931 p.719, 1932 p.739, 1933 p.734, 1934 p.636, 1935 p.653, 1938 p.664, 1939 pp.691-692, Events of 1942 p.607, 1943 p.555, 1944 p.541 [G]

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