St Helena was uninhabited when Portuguese navigator, Joćo da Nova, landed at the site of Jamestown on 21 May 1502. In 1659, the English east India Company took possession of the island and started the first permanent settlement at Chapel Valley, now Jamestown. The East India Company held the island under charter until 1834 when it was brought under the direct government of the British Crown.

Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island in 1815 following his defeat at Waterloo,  where he resided until his death in 1821. Although his body was removed to Paris in 1840, the tomb remains. During the 1840s, St Helena was an important base for Royal Naval vessels fighting the slave trade. 1890, the Zulu Chief, Dinizulu,  was exiled to the island where he remained for seven years. He was followed in 1900 by six thousand Boer prisoners of war but by 1903 they had all departed and the next few years witnessed much poverty and deprivation on the island.

In the fifties the island was once again in decline - a short-lived fish canning enterprise failed and the Union Castle Shipping Line began to reduce its shipping services, leading to a total withdrawal in 1977.

Today, the island is quiet, peaceful and pleasant. It is subsidized by HM Government but is taking steps to become more self-supporting.

Overseas territory of the UK.

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952)
head of government: Governor and Commander in Chief David HOLLAMBY (since June 1999)
cabinet: Executive Council consists of the governor, two ex officio officers, and six elected members of the Legislative Council.

Unicameral Legislative Council (15 seats, including the speaker, 3 ex officio and 12 elected members; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms).



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