The History of Turks and Caicos: From French and Spanish to British Rule

The Turks and Caicos Islands are a tropical archipelago of eight large islands and many small islands and cays, with a total of about 100 named islands, cays and rocks. The first recorded European sighting of the islands now known as Turks and Caicos occurred in 1512.In 1706, the French and Spanish briefly captured the Turks and Caicos Islands from the Bermudians. 

Turks and Caicos History

Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos supported an extensive and organized production of sea salt, with South Caicos ultimately being the main producer. Although the Turkish salt industry had been largely owned by Bermuda, throughout the 17th century all British subjects had the right to rake there, and a small number of Bahamians had participated.

With the destruction caused by the storm and the loss of the market, many Bermudians abandoned the Turks, and those who remained were so dismayed that they welcomed the visit of the governor of the Bahamas in 1819.The Crown transmitted this law to the government of Bermuda, which opposed it and rejected the Bahamian jurisdiction over the Turks.

By 1815, the United States, the main customer of Turkish salt, had been at war with Great Britain (and therefore Bermuda) for three years and had established other sources of salt.

In 1776, after being controlled by the Spanish, French and British, the Turks and Caicos Islands became part of the colony of the Bahamas, but attempts at integration failed and were abandoned in 1848.World War I broke out in the impoverished Turks and Caicos Islands, which continued to rely on a very limited salt-mining industry to survive.

The Caicos Islands saw the rise of new industries, such as the planting of sisal, the extraction of guano and the manufacture of sponges.

The winning party of the first general elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1976, the People's Democratic Movement (PDM) led by Jags McCartney, sought to establish a framework and complementary infrastructure in pursuit of an eventual policy of total independence for the islands.

These projects generated jobs, economic income and what became Grand Turk's JAGS McCartney International Airport (GDT) and South Caicos Airport (XSC). When the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the Turks and Caicos Islands received their own governor (the last administrator was reappointed).

It was in 1962 when another historic event occurred in the Turks and Caicos Islands, when the American astronaut John Glenn returned to Grand Turk after his first space flight.

Pirates and privateers began to frequent these islands as well, especially on Caicos Islands where there were freshwater springs and countless places to hide and hunt passing ships.