Anguilla - History & Background
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HISTORY & BACKGROUND
Anguilla, from the French word anguille (eel), is a long, narrow island in the Caribbean Sea. The island, which is about half the size of Washington, DC, is located approximately 150 miles east of Puerto Rico and is the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. Its length of 16 miles and width of 3.5 miles gives the country a total area of 35 square miles, or 91 square kilometers. The territory also includes Sombrero, Scrub, Seal and Dog Islands, and Prickly Pear Cays. The capital is The Valley, which is located in the center of the island. It is a part of the British West Indies and is a dependent British Crown colony.
Anguilla was colonized by British settlers from St. Christopher (St. Kitts) in 1650 and has been a British territory since that time. In 1882, Anguilla was united with St. Christopher and Nevis as a single British dependent colony. The inhabitants resisted the alliance with several protests and attempts to separate from the association with St. Christopher. Results were finally achieved in 1967 when the Anguillans ejected the St. Christopher policemen and declared the country's independence, refusing to further recognize the authority of the state government of St. Christopher. After two years of negotiations, British troops were sent in to establish control of the island. In 1980, the country was officially separated from Nevis and St. Christopher and placed under direct British rule; in 1982 a new Anguillan constitution was ratified.
In 2000, the Anguillan population was approximately 12,000, of which 26 percent were 14 years of age or less. Birth and death rates in 2000 were moderate with average life expectancy standing at slightly more than 76 years. Most of the inhabitants are of African descent. The official language is English, and Protestant denominations comprise the largest religious groups. The literacy rate, based on the definition of ages 12 and over being able to read and write, stands at 95 percent.