The Island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named after the great explorer’s brother, Barthelemy. The Indians ARAWAK were living on the island at that time.
• The first French colonists appeared on the island in 1648. For a short period St Barth was sold to the Knights of Malta, but in 1665 it was returned to France.
• From 1763 onwards, the island was settled by French colonists from Normandy and Britanny. St. Barth became a staging post and hotbed for Caribbean pirates. The most famous french pirate was Daniele Montbars, nicknamed “the Exterminator.” For several years, he was notorious as one of the most violent of buccaneers to prey on the Spanish during the mid-17th century. The island was given to Sweden in 1784 in exchange for trade rights in Gothenburg. It was only after this date, when King Louis XVI handed the island over to Sweden, that the island’s fortunes changed for the better. The period of Swedish governance brought progress and prosperity as the Swedes declared Gustavia a free port, making it convenient for trading for Europeans dealing in various goods, including contraband.
• In 1847, Sweden granted freedom to the slaves. In 1852, a devastating hurricane hit the island and this was followed by a fire. Following a referendum in 1877, Sweden gave the island back to France in 1878, after which it was administered as part of Guadeloupe.
• On March 19, 1946, the people of the island became French citizens with full rights.
Tourism appeared as a key sector on the island thanks to the famous Dutch smuggler and pilot Remy de Haenen in the 1960s. He brought first celebrities to the Island, such as Greta Garbo, Nuriev, Rothschild and many others. Remy built the famous and glamorous hotel, the Eden Rock. Active development began in the 1970s, leading to considerable international popularity from the 1980s. Today, the island is known for its exclusive luxury tourism.