Discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez, who first set foot on the small island in 1503, the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda is located in the North Atlantic, and has one of the most prosperous economies in the region, with a current estimated population of over 60,000 inhabitants. The capital city of Hamilton is a major port and lucrative tourist destination, with a strong, international business economy.
Shaped by the history of colonialism in the late 17thcentury, like so many of the Caribbean islands, there is a large African ethnic population, along with smaller Portuguese and Native American inhabitants. English settlers first arrived in 1609 and the island became a British colony in 1707. Bermuda became a prominent ship-building centre in the 17thcentury, and was a major outpost of slave trading till the Emancipation Act in 1834. During the Prohibition era, Bermuda became a tourist destination for rich Americans to drink alcohol without restrictions, and was also used as a centre of Allied operations during World War Two. Racial disquiet in the 1970s led to an outbreak of riots in the capital of Hamilton and the assassination of Bermuda’s Governor Sir Richard Sharples. The independence from British Colonial rule is still a major issue of contention on the island. In a 1995 vote, two-thirds of Bermudians rejected a referendum for independence.
Traditional Bermudan culture includes the dancers of the Gombey, a mixture of African, Native American and European styles. Notable literary works from the island include The History of Mary Prince, a fascinating autobiography by a freed Bermudan slave. Bermuda is also featured in Edmund Waller’s mock-heroic poem, The Battle of the Summer Islands(1645). The island was also a rich source of inspiration for the famed 19th century American novelist Mark Twain, who visited the island frequently throughout his life, and produced travel writing about the island, often citing it as his second home. Famous artists on the island include the sculptor Desmond Fountain, and the contemporary mural artist Graham Foster.