Like many other islands in the Caribbean, St. Barts was first charted by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and settled by the French in 1648. Finding living conditions hard, they sold it to the Knights of Malta, but in 1656 the native Carib Indians rebelled against the colonizers, killing many of these initial settlers. The 17th century in St. Barts saw resettlement by the French mariners who, this time, found the place hospitable. They improved the economy and eventually became tradesmen, shopkeepers, fishermen and small farmers. There was a brief period where St. Barts experienced a military take-over by the British, who then sold it to Sweden. During this period St. Barts was central to supplying various factions of colonial missions and wars. From 1878 to the present day St. Barts has been one of the four overseas French territories located in the Leeward Islands.
Language, cuisine and culture on St. Barts are distinctly French orientated. The island has a thriving tourism industry and is considered the perfect destination for wealthy tourists on holiday; especially with the growth that occurred after American millionaire David Rockefeller bought a property on the island. The arts on the island have experienced a rich development because of the different groups that spent time here. The architecture, for example, shows influences from Swedish Anglican settlers and colonial-style houses as well bright colours and slatted shutters traditionally known to Caribbean houses. St. Barts also has a prominent place in the Caribbean music scene, having hosted the St. Barts Music Festival for many years, an annual event that includes bands from around the world. The island also celebrates Caribbean film by holding the St. Barts Film Festival. The tightly knit community on the island here has also stimulated a strong visual art scene that keeps the St. Barts heritage alive; there are now many local and international artists living on the island.