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This Day in History

World History

Tuesday, April 22, 1834. :   The island of St Helena in the Atlantic Ocean becomes a British Crown Colony.

     St Helena is an island measuring approximately 16km by 8 km, with a total area of 122 km2. It is located in the south Atlantic Ocean, some 2000 km off the west coast of Africa, and regarded as one of the world's most isolated islands.

St Helena was originally discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, after which it became an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa. In 1658, English joint-stock and trading company, the East India Company, was granted a charter by political leader Oliver Cromwell to govern St Helena. English settlers came to the island in 1659, establishing plantations with the use of slaves from Africa.

The island is perhaps best known for being the location to which self-proclaimed Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, was exiled until his death in 1821. During this time, St Helena was still a possession of the East India Company, but tge British government maintained law and order. Following Napoleon's death, authority on the island reverted to the East India Company.

On 22 April 1834, control of Saint Helena was passed from the East India Company to the British Crown, meaning that the island became a crown colony. Many long-term inhabitants left due to administrative cost-cutting, while trade routes moved away from the island with the development of steam ships which did not depend on trade winds. St Helena was used to intern around 6000 prisoner from the Boer War in 1900 and 1901, but from an all-time high population of 9,850 in 1901, the number of permanent residents on St Helena has now dwindled to around 4,250 inhabitants.

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