History of Tobago

An introduction to Tobago's chequered and fascinating history

Summary

Scarborough Waterfront

Possession of Tobago has been fought over by numerous nations since it was first sighted by Columbus in 1498.

The original Carib population were forced to defend their island against other Amerindian tribes. Then, during the late 1500's and early 1600's, they had to defend it against European colonists. Over the years, the Dutch, English and French transformed Tobago into a battle zone and the island changed hands 31 times before it was finally ceded to the British in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris.

From about 1672, during a period of stability under temporary British rule, plantation culture began. Sugar, cotton and indigo factories sprang up and Africans were imported to work as slaves. The economy flourished and by 1777 Tobago was exporting great quantities of rum, cotton, indigo and sugar. However, the French invaded again, in 1781, and destroyed the plantations. They forced the British governor to surrender and the island’s buoyant economy fell into decline.

Fishing boatIn 1814, when the island was again under British control, another phase of successful sugar production began. However, a severe hurricane in 1847, combined with the collapse of plantation underwriters, marked the end of the sugar trade. Without the highly profitable sugar production, Britain had no further use for Tobago and in 1889 the island was made a ward of Trinidad. Without sugar, the islanders had to grow other crops, planting acres of limes, coconuts and cocoa and exporting their produce to Trinidad. In 1963, Hurricane Flora ravaged Tobago, destroying the villages and crops. A restructuring programme followed and attempts were made to diversify the economy. The development of a tourist industry began...

Detailed History

Mount Irvine BayReaders interested in more information about Tobago's history will be interested in our more detailed article, available through the tabs at the top and bottom of these pages.

May we express our thanks and appreciation to Mr Edward Hernandez, curator of the Tobago Museum, for providing us with the article that forms the basis of the article.

Archaeological & Historical Tours

Very little evidence of Tobago's rich history remains. Most local tour guides only have a smattering of genuine knowledge and the complexity of Tobago's past is often confused and open to debate. However, what remains beyond doubt is that Tobago has a wonderfully colourful past and reader's who have taken the trouble to wade through our articles about the island's past would do well to consider an archaeological tour during their holiday.

We know of only one tour guide on Tobago who might be considered qualified to offer archaeological or historical tours of the island. She is Patricia Lewis, who has lived on Tobago for over 25 years and has been 'digging' since she was a young child in Northern Ontario. Pat offers small personal tours of interesting archaeological and historical sites, primarily in the south-west of the island, and can enlighten visitors about the original inhabitants of Tobago and the history of the colonial days. We strongly recommend that you give her a call.

Telephone:

(868) 764-6844 / 639-9614

Email:
RSR:

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Tobago Satellite Map

Enjoy interactive satellite maps of Tobago. If you have Google Earth download the map here. If not, click the map below to view in a browser window.

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   CAD = $5.44

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Page Updated: 19 Apr 14